In the last few months I have seen lots of new mums asking over and over again in different Facebook groups or internet forums, how to deal with training, specifically sparring, while you are still breastfeeding your baby.
Nursing, which is way more than breasfeeding, is a wonderful thing to do. It is healthy for the mum and specially for baby. It is the best nutrition your baby can get without a doubt. It supports its immune system, it helps baby to ease pain, to relive stress. It makes even stronger the mother-child bonding and it gives you some of the most beautiful, peaceful and precious moments you will experience in this life.
I can’t recommend it good enough.
But it is not easy.
For start, doctors, midwives, other mothers in your family or friends circles, will tell/advice/warn you throughly all your pregnancy about how beautiful but painful giving birth is, they try to prepare you for the first months of sleepless nights, changing wipers, colic cries… etc etc. You should expect and be prepared for the most wonderful and still hardest time of your life. But few people will tell you about how breastfeeding will be. Yes, they explain you all the benefits for your and your baby and they will explain you some details like f.e. different nursing positions but they will rarely mention the pain and discomfort side of it. I was personally completely surprised since I was not prepared at all.
Nobody told me about the first 30-60 seconds of short but intense pain that you will suffer every time your baby latch on during the first weeks and that your nipples will literally crack and peel off until they get used to being sucked by your baby.
Even if you know as a mum-to-be that you will be nursing your baby every 3/4 hours, day and night, you are not truly aware of what it means. I will tell you. It means that you have to keep breastfeeding or pumping milk out every 3 hours, literally, you like it or not, you have time or not. It means that if baby ist not hungry or you have to travel, you better look for a milk pump machine if you do not want your tits to exploit. It means that if you want to get some time off and meet friends and you are lucky enough that your partner or mum takes care of baby, you will have to set a chronometer to be able to be back within 3-4 hours, feeling like Cinderella coming back before midnight. You have an option though, you still can take a hand milk pump and sit on the toilet of the bar for 15 to 20 minutes each breast, feeling miserable, tired and looking forward to go home and get some sleep.
About the exploding thing…, that was a joke, they will not explode even if you will feel like it, but you are very probable to get blocked milk ducts or even a mastitis (infection) which can be VERY painful.
Even more, mastitis or blocked milk duck can be also triggered by stress. I never believe that being in distress could have such an influence on breast feeding, until i had it once last summer with my third baby and believe me, it was not fun.
To top all the mentioned above and come to the real topic of this little article, during the nursing time your breasts are extremely sensitive and that can be an issue for a grappler or an athlete in any other form of contact sports.
To back up my two advices I am giving you below, I am telling you from my own extensive experience. I have three kids (9, 5 and 1 year old) and I breastfed all of them until the 6th or 7th month. I was back on the mats 2-4 weeks after delivery, training 5 to 6 days at week and I was competing within 3 months after giving birth each of my first two girls and after 6 months of giving birth my third baby.
So here my tipps:
- Breastfeed (or pump milk out) always before training. I would never ever recommend you fighting with full breasts. It can be dangerous, beside painful. You risk a infection at the very least.
- Use a breast protection. I tried different ones and there was not doubt for me. The best that suits BJJ fighters is Cool Guard (f.e. https://qpsport.com/products/coolguard). It is a sport bra with two pockets where you can put the flexible plastic inserts. They are hard and at the same time flexible enough that perfectly protect your breast from impact and pressure without hurting yourself and what it is equally important, your training partner. I always asked my partners if they had felt anything and they didn’t.
By the way, just as an informative note as BJJ referee, hard plastic protections are not allowed at competitions. So if you want to compete while you are still in the nursing time, I can only recommend you to nurse your baby right before the fights. It takes some timing and organization to get your baby hungry exactly half an hour before you enter the mats, but it is possible since I did it many times. You can always take a milk pump with you and use it in the changing rooms. I have done that too. I never used the manual ones because it takes too long, but had an electric one. They are heavy to carry but do the job faster.
The only inconvenience beside the time and weight of milch pumps are that, while women are all about „oh’s“, „so cute“ and looks of admiration when they see you breast-feeding your baby right before entering the mats of a big competition, their look change to a mixture of pity, weirdness and surprise when they see you sitting on the bench in the changing rooms on your Gi pants but topless, with a milk pump machine plugged to your breast, feeling like a cow :-D.
But oh well, we can not all be glamorous and perfect all the time, can’t we? And again, Breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful thing that exists in the nature and when you are prepared for it, you will enjoy the most wonderful and intimate moments with your baby.