There are few things when it comes to running that I think are mentally or physically harder than being a pregnant runner, being a nursing runner is one of them.
Recently I got asked by another mommy runner, who will also be running Boston this Monday, how I handle running and nursing, and specifically what I do when I run a marathon. What follows are my own personal experiences nursing three children.
Nursing is hard work, a labor of love. Everyone has their personal views on the topic, but for me and my children I felt it was the best start to life I could provide. I was determined to nurse them each for a year. I knew with persistence we would make it to the one year mark recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. I can assure you there were times I wanted to quit. I did not nurse for a full year because it was easy for me to do or because I loved it.
With my first child I went back to work when she was 3 months old and became a pumping mommy. It was terribly restrictive for the 1st 6 months when she wasn’t eating any solids. At 6 months when she was able to start eating rice cereal and more, things got a little bit easier, but I never had more than a day’s worth of milk built up and so there was no way for me to leave her for an extended period of time. This meant it was hard to go for runs lasting for any significant time. It also meant that I was stressed every time I was away from her and someone had to give her a bottle. It just wasn’t worth it for me to leave her for long.
The first time I ran 10 miles after my first was born, was 8 months postpartum, at the Cherry Blossom 10 miler. At that point she was eating food, so I was able to leave her for a decent amount of time and not worry that she was going hungry or was unhappy. Once we made it to the year mark, I think we were both ready for it to be over, so I stopped.
A couple of weeks after I stopping nursing her I unknowingly became pregnant again. Miles was born 19 months after his sister. Another year long ‘job’ of nursing had begun. I was a stay at home mom this time around so I thought nursing would be easier. As with each new child, I was greeted with a new challenge. Miles would not drink out of a bottle or a sippy cup and would not take a pacifier. This meant when I went running he would not drink anything.
When he was just a couple of months old I started training for Marine Corps Marathon. I would start my runs from my house or drive no more than 5 minutes away to a trail, in order to cut down on the time I was away from him. I would literally feed him before walking out of the door, run as fast as I could, and then feed him right when I got back. It was emotionally and physically draining.
I tried to quit nursing when Miles was 1 year. I felt that I had fulfilled my mommy duties and that it was time to literally take my body back. He had other plans. It took 15 months to finally get him to wean.
While nursing him I ran a total of 4 marathons. For the first one Marine Corps, I fed him before I left in the morning. When I got to the race I pumped in my car beforehand, ran the race, and then pumped after I finished. Eric and I went to lunch to celebrate and we made it back to Miles around 2 pm. He had refused to drink anything while I was gone. It was stressful.
A month later I ran Richmond Marathon with a couple of girlfriends. It was my first night away from Miles and I worried how he would handle not having me around. My husband and I agreed that it would be good for him to be away from me and maybe it would force him to drink out of the bottle. We had started him on rice cereal at this point so that was a back up. Again Miles barely drank while I was gone.
I pumped right before the race[I was lucky I was with another nursing mommy who also had to pump], and then got in the car immediately after the race and pumped right away. I did not quiet have running marathons and nursing figured out at this point. I did not carry water with me during the race and it was abnormally hot. I got extremely dehydrated from not drinking enough water and ended up crossing the finish line and puking for the first time in a race ever. The world went yellow and I thought I was going to pass out. It was not a fun time. I had learned a valuable lesson and would be smarter in my next marathon.
In 2009 when I ran Boston I was still nursing Miles. I brought a hand pump to the start and did it under a blanket in Runner’s Village. No one except my mom knew what I was doing. In that moment I felt strong. There was NOTHING that was going to stop me from realizing my dream of running Boston. My husband met me at the finish line and we headed back to the hotel right away so I could feed Miles.
With baby #3 I was smarter. I started pumping only a couple of days after Colton came home from the hospital. I built up a supply in my freezer and have enough that I could [if I really needed too] leave him for a couple of days. My advice to new moms is to begin pumping right away and once your supply is built up, keep pumping once a day or a couple of times a week, and rotate out the older milk in order to make sure none of your hard work spoils.
Colton was asleep when I needed to leave for National Marathon. I didn’t want to wake him up in hopes he would sleep in a bit, so I pumped and then kissed him and Eric goodbye and left[unfortunately he woke up not long after I left].
My car conveniently has an electrical outlet so I brought my electric pump just in case. I had planned to pump right before the race but was crunched for time so I didn’t.
While running I do my best NOT to think about Colton. If you are currently nursing or have nursed a baby before, you KNOW why I try not to think about him.
I finished the race and was definitely in pain. Rather than pumping, and delaying getting home even longer, I hopped in the car and rushed home. When I got home Colton was sleeping, much to my dismay, but soon woke up. We both felt better!
This weekend for Boston Marathon, Colton is coming with me. I’m going to have to pack up a bunch of frozen milk and carry it on board my flight [breast milk is exempt from flight restrictions].
My grandmother and a friend of my moms will be watching baby C while my mother and I both run.
He will come with me in the car on the way to the bus. I’ll feed him right before I board and then bring my hand pump with me to use prior to checking my bag. My family will then meet me at the finish with Colton. If they don’t make it in time or I can not find them fast enough, my hand pump in my checked bag will be my backup. I am sure I will be in some pain, but I will use it as motivation to run fast. The faster I run, the faster I finish, the sooner I can feed my son, the less pain I’m in. If that isn’t motivation I don’t know what is.
My point in sharing my journey is to let you know you CAN be a mom and a RUNNER and you can nurse and still run races, even marathons. It takes a little planning and allot of work, but to me its worth it, so I make the effort.
Baby C turned 5 months this past weekend. I don’t want time to fly by but I am sure I will be happy in 7 months when I can have my body back. After being pregnant for a combined total of almost 27 months and nursing for 32 and counting, I am ready for the next stage in life. I’m not complaining though – it’s a small sacrifice in my eyes for a child that I love more than life itself.
I choose to not make excuses when it comes to my running. Yes it’s hard being a nursing mommy runner, but this is my life and so I make the best of it and try to enjoy the journey I’m on! I know on Monday the logistics will be more complicated for me than most, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love baby C. I love marathons and I love running.
Have any insight to share on this topic? Questions?
|Happy and looking ‘normal’ at the start of the Richmond Marathon|
|Dehydrated and in pain at the finish|