Breastfeeding and marathons are two words not often seen in the same sentence. But one bad-ass mum is making waves across international headlines for doing exactly this. British ultra runner Sophie Power has been candidly snapped breastfeeding her three-month-old baby while pumping, while taking part in a grueling 171 km race across the Alps!
Breastfeeding and Marathons Look Easy for this Power Mum!
Sophie Power (what an appropriate surname!) is a mum of two and co-founder of Airlabs – a start-up looking to create clean air for cities.
She is a seasoned runner, and a member of Strava (a social network for athletes). In fact, she has logged an amazing 439.8 km over 27 races on Strava so far this year. So it’s not surprising that she wanted to take part in the epic Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) race.
It’s just that, she gave birth to her second child three month ago. And where most of us barely have the energy to change a diaper at this point in our motherhood journey, she chose to run a route that spans three countries.
To give you some perspective of just how epic this run is:
- The route crosses Italy, France and Switzerland.
- It is 171 km long.
- The race is one of the toughest in the world. It is also one of the largest.
- It crosses mountains, downhill slopes and throws extreme weather conditions and variations at the runners
We’re already panting and hyperventilating just reading about how tough the race is. But Sophie literally took it in her stride and completed the race in 43 hours and 32 minutes.
But She Was Also Breastfeeding Her Baby Boy!
Incredibly, Sophie continued to breastfeed her little boy Cormac every tedious step of this way. Here’s how she did it.
The beautiful picture of her nursing and pumping was snapped in Courmayeur, Italy, after Sophie ran for 16 hours to meet her very hungry little boy and be reunited with him.
But before that, she had it all meticulously planned out so that she could still run while giving her baby her milk.
How did she do it? Well, before the 16 hour sprint, she was actually giving her little one breastmilk every three hours. Her husband would meet her at every aid station. She would pump her milk, then send it back to her baby boy through her husband.
Sophie said, “Oh my god I was in agony! Cormac usually feeds every three hours and it took me 16 to get to Courmayeur where he could first meet me so I was hand expressing everywhere I could en route. I was so relieved he was hungry!”
Motherhood Changed the Way She Raced
By taking part in the race, Power sent a strong message of inclusion for mums of young babies, to races like this.
It was my first UTMB – I actually had a place when pregnant with Donnacha [her first child] in 2014 but they refused to let me defer a year. They allow deferrals for injuries but do not accept this for pregnancy as it is in their words ‘a choice
She also said motherhood caused her to race in a different way:
I’m embracing a whole new racing philosophy, I’m going to slow down and enjoy special races like this. When you’re in the mountains some runners don’t look up and see the views, I live in central London so I wanted to make the most of it.
During pregnancy, it felt like all the advice was to put your feet up and get fat as anything else was taking a risk. This is not the best way to prepare for motherhood – staying fit, healthy and strong is so important and how you can safely do that needs to be talked about more.
Breastfeeding and Marathons: Is It Safe?
By now it’s quite clear that Sophie is a seasoned runner with a well-trained, strong body that obviously bounced back from pregnancy, enabling her to take part in an extreme race such as this.
However, she explains she had to adjust the way she ran because she was breastfeeding.
She explains, “I couldn’t raise my heart rate too much as my body isn’t primed to burn fat and I couldn’t fully run downhills to protect my pelvis. In a typical race I would get in and out of the aid stations as quickly as possible but here I had to focus on keeping down enough food for me and for Cormac, and resting.”
Which brings us to the question: breastfeeding and marathons – is it safe? It is – as long as you train and stay hydrated, in a nutshell.
Connie Shieh is a breastfeeding mother who, like Sophie, is a seasoned marathon runner. Writing for Women’s Running, she shares some valuable tips:
- Pump or nurse about 15 minutes before setting out for a run.
- If possible, build up a small stash of pumped milk for emergencies if you’re not running with your little one. If you’re traveling, a quick pumping session before you head out the door should suffice.
- Consider splitting long runs into a few shorter runs in the same 12-hour period.
- Invest in good, supportive sports bras. Moving Comfort and New Balance have great support for increasingly milk-heavy chests. Look for the models that have the Velcro-adjustable straps for easy access for baby.
- Invest in good breast-pads or wear/carry disposable ones as guards against leakages.
- Hydrate! The thirst is extra real when breastfeeding, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids.
- Feed yourself! You’re fueling yourself for your runs and also for producing extra for a tiny human!
Meanwhile, La Leche League USA confirms that exercise has no effect on reducing breast milk supply – including breastfeeding and marathons. They do ask mums to wait until the baby is at least six weeks old before resuming exercise, and ensure that you start slowly and gradually, staying well-hydrated at all times.