Engaging in physical activity and breastfeeding are 2 of the healthiest behaviors a new mother can participate in, yet a majority of mothers are not achieving physical activity or breastfeeding recommendations. Breastfeeding mothers may experience additional barriers to physical activity; however, more research is needed. Therefore, the purpose of this cross-sectional study was to determine the physical activity levels of breastfeeding women as well as to better understand their motivation and barriers for engaging in physical activity.
A total of 633 breastfeeding mothers completed a 30-question survey developed under the constructs of self-determination theory.
Findings indicate the majority of breastfeeding mothers are engaging in light activity (eg, walking) regularly; nevertheless, 1 in 5 mothers is predominantly sedentary and only 1 in 20 mothers is engaging in heavy exercise (eg, running) regularly. Furthermore, mothers appear motivated by extrinsic factors related to improving fitness and appearance. Finally, physical discomfort due to breastfeeding and concerns for reduction in milk supply were found to be substantial barriers to physical activity.
These findings suggest breastfeeding women may need additional support for engaging in physical activity and further education and resource development is needed.