Ok, I went back and forth on this post for a while. Mostly because I feel sort of awkward talking about breastfeeding, but also because I didn’t want to be judged for my decision to compete. Since breastfeeding is something I really believe in, and since I couldn’t find much information on this topic when I was researching it, I thought I would share my experience with you. Although I can’t speak from the experience of breastfeeding an infant (my son is a toddler) while competing, I think much of what I learned would apply to younger babies too.
The first thing you may wonder when competing is how the diet will affect your milk supply. Since I competed for the first time when my son was 15 months, it wasn’t a big issue. My supply was well established and he was eating plenty of solids so I didn’t have to worry too much about him getting enough milk. That said, I did keep my calories relatively high for a competition diet (around 1800-2000). Breastfeeding burns about 300-500 calories per day and for my normal diet I eat around 2400 calories, so that was enough of a deficit for me to lean down without starving. I was also very well hydrated, drinking over a gallon of water a day. The most important factor in maintaining a healthy supply is breastfeeding regularly. In fact, most lactation consultants will point out that our bodies have adapted to survive through harsh conditions and that women have been able to breastfeed through droughts and famine. That said, I would NOT recommend taking your calories below 1500 for any lactating mama, especially one working out like a fiend. I also would NOT recommend manipulating sodium and water intake in your final week whether or not you are lactating. There have been a few cases recently where competitors have suffered heart and/or pancreas failure due to dehydration.
Supplements were another concern of mine. I talked to my doctor and did research on my own before supplementing. The supplements I used were: Protein powder, Glutamine, Calcium/Magnesium/Zinc, Multivitamin, Vitamin E, Collagen, and Biotin. I did NOT use a fat burner. Heck, breastfeeding is its own kind of fat burner, right? Since whey protein is often the main source of protein in formula, my doctor said not to worry about protein powder, just make sure there were not a lot of additives or other supplements mixed in. I used Dymatize Elite ISO-100, which has a small ingredient list. It does have splenda in it though, so if you are not ok with that, you may want to do some research on natural brands of protein powder (Jay Robb, etc.) A great resource for breastfeeding moms is the website Kellymom.com. Here is a link to the page where vitamin supplements are described in relation to breastfeeding.
Biotin (a B vitamin), calcium, zinc, magnesium, and most of the vitamins in my multivitamin are water soluable and should not affect your breastmilk or baby. You need to be careful with your vitamin A & E intake though, since they are fat soluable and can accumulate in your milk. Gultamine and Collagen are both essentially made up of amino acids that occur naturally in the body. Gultamine helps with recovery and Collagen helps maintain healthy skin. Both should not affect your baby if you are taking the recommended doseage. While it is not necessary to take supplements, It is a good idea to supplement vitamins if you are going to be cutting calories while breastfeeding. If you have trouble getting enough protein, you may consider supplementing with a whey shake, especially after your workout when your body is primed to use protein for building muscle.
Closer to the competition my main concern with breastfeeding was competition day and the tan. Since I had the experience of competing once before I got pregnant, I knew what a pain the spray tan is. It is so easy to mess up your tan and I was really worried that I would not be able to breastfeed and/or hold my baby once I got sprayed. Here’s what worked for me: The week before the show I made sure to exfoliate well especially on my chest. I wore “Lily Pads” (silicone nipple covers) to get spray tanned so my baby wouldn’t have to eat the tan to breastfeed. Once tanned and DRY I went home and was able to breastfeed, keeping most of my body covered with a robe or loose henley top. Feeding my son did not really mess up my tan, but I was careful of how much contact he had directly with my skin. I was lucky because both shows I participated in were relatively close to my home (less than an hour away). This meant I could feed my son first thing in the morning, drive to the competition site to get hair and make-up, do the pre-judging then come home for a quick break before the night show to feed again. Once I finished the night show I went home to feed him to sleep. If you are competing away from home. I recommend pumping at least 3 times throughout the day. I use a Lansinoh pump and usually pump for about 15 minutes to make sure I am empty. The pump did not mess up my tan or leave lines that were visible outside of my suit.
Overall, the experience was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I hope this can help some lactating moms out there who are interested in competing. Please share your experience if you have one.
If you found these tips helpful make sure you check out my guidebook for bikini competitors “Secrets of the Bikini Competitor” where I share more secrets for rocking the stage and winning your competition.