After your baby is born, focus shifts towards one thing really, and that is keeping this new little human alive. Most of our days are spent doing this exact thing, with one of the highest priority items being feeding this baby
Whether you chose to nurse or bottle feed, feeding is one of the first things a baby looks to do when it arrives earthside. Sometimes the act of feeding comes easy for some, while others require a little more work and practice. Feeding can happen almost constantly at the beginning of life as the act helps soothe babies and nourishes their growing bodies and brains. Even when babies do fall into a rhythm of eating, it is still 5-6 times per day and throughout the night as well. All this to say, feeding your baby is a task you will be doing a lot.
Time after time, I see moms for differing reasons following pregnancy and almost all will report some sort of shoulder/neck pain that is directly linked to our increase in poor posturing in feeding our babies. If we know we are going to be feeding a baby multiple times a day for the next year, finding positions and strategies to help decrease pain can help greatly. Here are a few for you to think about.
Let your spine/pelvis be like Switzerland (aka neutral)
Whether you are laying down to nurse or sitting in a rocking chair, we want to position our bodies in a “neutral position.” Neutral positioning allows are muscles and ligaments to be in a safe range to allow the least amount of stress and strain. Here are good tips to keep your body in “neutral”:
Feet flat on the ground
Knees/hips bent at 90 degrees or right angles
Shoulders even – avoid leaning to one side or the other
You get a pillow! and You get a pillow! And you get a pillow!
Using help to keep your body in the neutral postures is non-negotiable and I do not think you will be successful for long without. Using a nursing pillow (Boppy or my Breastfriend are my favs) allows you to rest baby right at your breast for feeding. You need to think about bringing the baby to your breast, not breast to baby to avoid bending over. Some moms need multiple pillows to achieve this.
Pillow/support for your back and neck is also something I see not being utilized. Sitting in a high back chair allows you to lean fully back and support your entire spine. Avoid feeding on the floor or in chairs/positions that do not allow full spinal support.
“Keep ya head up” – Tupac
I know your baby is the cutest thing you have ever seen, but once your baby is latched and eating, try to avoid looking down at them. Use your supportive chair or pillow to lean back against. This also includes looking at your phone. Set yourself parameters on how long you look at your phone. Set it down, relax, close your eyes. Turn on a show that encourages you to look up as well. Your neck will thank you for it.
All aboard to the Nursing Station!
Pick a spot in your house that is your “nursing station.” I encourage moms to find a spot that they love, whether it be near a window, artwork or lamps that you enjoy and relaxes you. Be sure the chair allows for neutral positioning of your legs/back as well as provides support for your spine. Have nursing pillows readily available. Plan ahead and have water nearby as well as anything you might need while you are feeding. You will be spending a lot of time here, so might as well enjoy it.
Play the Long Game
Take the time to set yourself up right before starting to feed. Do not allow the stress of a crying baby pressure you into feeding too quickly without setting yourself up first. Getting baby to latch and stop crying is short term gains that will only leave you in awkward positions that will quickly cause discomfort.
Take your time. Set up. Breathe. Baby will be okay.
Werk it out!
No matter how much propping and planning we do, we still are going to be in a forward, flexed position for significantly long periods of time. Adding in a stretch or two to help fight these positions can feel oh-so-good! Perform the following stretches 10×10 sec holds 3-4x/day
Getting into the perfect position is not always possible, I get that, but if you can attempt to achieve the above steps as often as you can, this will allow you to keep midback, neck and shoulder pain at bay.
If you find yourself with pain, numbness, tingling or discomfort that does not ease, reaching out to a postpartum PT can be helpful to address specific limitations in your body! Spending time with your sweet baby is number one priority these days, don’t let pain interrupt that.
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