Monica Bencomo, a one-time fitness competitor and mom to two kids, breastfeeds her 18-month old during her workouts

By Julie Mazziotta
March 29, 2017 04:40 PM
Credit: Monica Bencomo/Instagram

As any new mom (or not-so-new mom) will tell you, fitting in exercise while taking care of kids is next to impossible. Some moms work out with their kids, but Monica Bencomo takes it a step further — she breastfeeds while getting in her squats.

The mom of two is also a health and fitness coach at her company Moms Wear Heels, and was ready to get back to her pre-pregnancy self after her daughter Ariel was born 18 months ago.

“I took about a month off, and slowly began introducing compound movements in while she napped like weighted squats, pull ups and push ups,” Bencomo, 30, tells PEOPLE. “It felt amazing to move my body and gain my strength back, and in the comfort of my own home.”

As Ariel got older, though, the very attached baby didn’t want to leave her mom’s side.

“I tried taking her to the gym daycare and she hated it. So I figured, why not workout in front of them?” Bencomo says. “After she acclimated to squatting with her mom and big bro, she began yanking my sports bra to the side for a snack during our family workout videos.”

The Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Bencomo was nervous about what people would think at first, but wanted to support National Breastfeeding Week, which was going on at the time, and figured that this was the perfect way.

“I honestly thought that since I do it, that MANY people did due to sheer convenience. But turns out, many women sit down, breastfeed, and lose their motivation to finish their workouts,” she says. “Instead of letting that happen, I incorporate her into my lifestyle.”

Now Bencomo and Ariel do glute bridges, wall-sits and leg lifts together, and the mom says the key is to take their workouts “slow and steady” if she’s nursing.

“Knowing my daughter is safe, nourished and happy brings me joy during my workouts!” she says. “I simply increase reps while lowering the resistance and weight. I still am able to tone up, get a sweat and ensure Ariel is happy.”

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Bencomo was even able to train for a bikini fitness competition just 11 months after Ariel’s birth, and came in fifth overall — even while taking breaks to pump in the bathroom.

“It was quite the experience,” she says. “On one hand I felt incredibly confident and strong, like a breastfeeding goddess warrior! On the other hand, some girls backstage weren’t friendly and thought it was crazy; I heard comments about how I wasn’t stage ready yet.”

But their comments didn’t get to her.

“I decided to own my unique fitness journey and to not compare it with anyone else’s,” Bencomo says. “I decided to live according to my values and not society’s. Turns out my kids and I were a lot happier that way.”