Did you know babies are fed about 8 times per day in the first 3 months of life? That is a LOT of time sitting and lying in one place with a baby!
Aches and pains are common with breastfeeding mothers because of the demanding schedule of feeding, lack of sleep, and faulty posture during feeds. Poor posture is associated with neck and back pain, strain to shoulders, nipple pain, exhaustion, increased stress, and general discomfort throughout feedings.
The good news? Women’s health physical therapy can help! We help women everyday offset their subsequent breastfeeding pain. However, we also love to coach women through PREVENTION of pain. Want to learn more? READ ON!
Do you have a favorite place to breastfeed? If not, you should totally find one! Your back, neck and shoulders will appreciate a good set up to feed your baby. Establish a special spot in your house that is saved specifically for you and your little one. You can keep your space filled with all of the special pillows, blankets, water, books, essential oils, and feel goods etc for all hours of the day!
Mothers often choose a certain position for breastfeeding based on convenience and comfort for the baby. But you also have to consider your own body! Sitting in a supported position is recommended. Sitting unsupported in or on the side of the bed or couch puts you at higher risk for developing back and neck pain associated with breastfeeding. Sitting in a chair is definitely the most common position that women feed, and can provide significant support to the back and shoulders when supported properly.
Key things to remember while breastfeeding:
1. Keep your spine as neutral as possible (straight, like you’re wearing a back brace or a tight corset dress)
2. Keep your wrists in a neutral position while supporting baby (straight, like you’re wearing a wrist brace)
3. ALWAYS bring your infant to your breast (instead of bending forward to bring your breast to infant)
4. Avoid prolonged & awkward positions of the head and neck
If you are having trouble with this posture in your favorite feeding chair or feeding spot, use extra support to help! Add a stool under your feet to bring your knees up higher to give more support to the baby and bring him/her closer towards your breast. Remember, always bring baby up to you! 🙂
Add a long pillow or rolled up towel along your spine to keep a more upright posture. Keep your shoulders relaxed down and back.
Add a small pillow or rolled towel to your lower back (around your belt line) to push your pelvis slightly forward, avoid slouching and support your spine. This works really well if you tend to sit in a softer chair or couch with a less supportive seat cushion.
Dr. Lisa’s personal favorite! — Purchase an adjustable nursing pillow! This will help bring your baby to your breast, that is easy to switch depending on the side you are feeding from. Not all nursing pillows are created equal. You can always add extra pillows or blankets under your nursing pillow if you need more height. This is especially true if you are long bodied. If you don’t have a specific nursing pillow, any number of pillows or supports can replace one as long as you can get your body comfortable and supported.
If you are holding a device like your phone, tablet, eReader or book, bring it up to your eye level as much as you can to prevent looking down for long periods of time. If you can support your arm that is holding your device, even better! Personally, Dr. Lisa kept her Kindle conveniently placed at her breastfeeding station, so she could easily get some reading done and prevent herself from falling asleep when exhausted during feeds.
A great alternative position to sitting is side lying. Simply lie on your side with your infant facing you to help latch to the lower breast. This is a great position for mothers following cesarean birth, those who have tailbone pain, are fatigued, or is great for anyone during night feedings.
Curious about other positions you can try? A great way to discover what works best for you and your baby, is to work with a lactation consultant and a women’s health specialized physical therapist. Specific positions may work best for you physically and others may be more comfortable for your baby while eating. Working with a specialized practitioner can help you troubleshoot what works best for the both of you!
Find what works for you, but remember that both your posture AND body are important! Proper breastfeeding posture can drastically reduce aches and pains you that you may get from being in one position for much of the day. This also improves your overall mood and energy levels!
Written by Lisa Piropato, PT, DPT, ATC