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How This Mom Made Running and Breastfeeding Work

Michele Gonzalez, aka NYC Running Mama, is an accomplished runner who, as the mother of two boys (ages four and two and a half), balances her family and her athletic goals with aplomb. Her 21,000-plus Instagram followers (not to mention the visitors to her blog) look to her for training inspiration and a dose of positivity. We reached out to the West Point grad and 3:15 marathoner to find out how she successfully combined breastfeeding with serious training. Read on for her story and a few tips and tricks.

A Double Dose

My oldest nursed every 60 to 90 minutes for the first few months of his life, while my youngest would nurse every two to four hours. Though my oldest presented some challenges—finding time to run and train in between his feedings was the hardest because he didn’t take a bottle for the first six months—it was tougher the second time around. I was training more intensely, training for my first Ironman after my second was born, and it was a constant struggle to keep my milk supply up.

Nursing and Netting Miles

I breastfed both boys until they were 15 and 13 months, respectively. I started running soon after they were both born, but didn’t begin training for specific races until about 12 weeks postpartum. I averaged anywhere from 30 to 50 miles a week during my oldest son’s first year. I trained for and ran the New York City Marathon and the NYRR (New York Road Runners) Knickerbocker 60K (37.2 miles) when he was about 10 months old. It was a bit different for my youngest. I ran my first marathon postpartum when he was seven and a half months old and completed my first Ironman when he was ten and a half months old. Training for the Ironman consisted of three to four runs a week, biking three to four times a week and swimming three times a week. My weekends were filled with four to seven hours of training on Saturday and four to six hours of training on Sunday.

Staying the Course

I never rethought my breastfeeding decision, but I did rethink my desire and ability to train for the Ironman multiple times. Breastfeeding for at least a year was my goal with both my children; training was secondary. So when my milk supply was showing signs of being negatively affected after a couple of weeks of intense training, I questioned the possibility of trying to do both at the same time. Ultimately, after extensive research, a visit to a local lactation consultant and discussions with other knowledgeable and experienced breastfeeding moms, I began increasing my milk supply. It was not easy, but it did allow me to continue to train while producing enough milk for my son, while also building a small stockpile in the freezer.

Lessons Learned

You don’t need to make a choice between breastfeeding and endurance sports. It is possible to do both. If you want something, you will find a way to make it happen. Training for an Ironman with a six-month-old and a two-year-old required wake-ups at 3:45 a.m. five to six days a week to ensure that I would be finished in time for my husband to head to work. I was able to get the boys on the same nap schedule and we would all nap in the afternoon—about two hours for them and 45 to 60 minutes for me, which would give me time to clean, cook, do laundry. Those naps were crucial for me when I was in the peak of training!

Tips and Tricks
  • • Nurse or pump where you need to, when you need to—don’t feel ashamed! I’ve had to pump in the transition area during my Ironman, have nursed my sons before the start of races and nursed moments after I crossed the finish line.
  • • Nurse or pump right before you head out on a long run. That way your child will be properly fed and have milk when he or she gets hungry—and you are not worried about getting home because you are in pain from going too long between nursing.
  • • Knowledge is power. Find a support group of other breastfeeding running moms, do some research, find a lactation consultant. The more you know about breastfeeding the better equipped you will be to maintain your supply and deal with any issues that may come up as training progresses.
  • • Opt for runs that you can do right outside your home or apartment rather than spending the time driving to a location. Every minute matters when you are nursing. You don’t want to spend half the time in the car when you could be running.
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