During my pregnancy, I knew I wanted to breastfeed my son. I read the books and bought the supplies. I had the breastfeeding pillows and salves and shirts. I had the pump and the rocking chair and ice packs. I was ready for sore nipples and sleepless nights. I was not, however, prepared for the back pain. You may have residual back pain from pregnancy and delivery or you may experience lower back pain from spending so much time sitting while nursing and snuggling your new little squish. You may even have pain in your upper back and shoulders.
Read on for some tips, positions and exercises to keep your back pain at bay or even better, prevent it from happening in the first place.
Bring baby to your breast
Try to avoid slouching or leaning forward to nurse. Instead, bring your baby up to you. Nursing pillows work well, but if you have a long torso, like me, you might need more than one to make sure your baby is right at your breast. I love the My Breast Friend pillow for the very early newborn days and the Boppy Pillow as baby starts to get a bit bigger. Plus you can leave one pillow in your bedroom or nursery and one in a main area - you can never have too many nursing pillows! Also placing more pillows under your knees or a stool under your feet can help!
Change positions regularly
After your baby is done nursing (until 10 minutes from now), try to move around for a few minutes. Going for a walk outside always helped my back and oftentimes, my mood as well! Plus, most babies love to go for walks, too!
Kellymom.com recommends drinking to satisfy your thirst, “is not necessary to force fluids; drinking to satisfy thirst is sufficient for most mothers to stay hydrated. Pay attention to your body’s signals – busy mothers often ignore thirst if there is nothing nearby to drink – try to keep a drink near where you usually breastfeed baby or at your desk at work.”
Choose the right chair
Those deep, comfy gliders may look like the perfect place to spend hours nursing, but firm, upright chairs are actually much better for the back. I learned that a little too late, but was able to compensate by making sure I had a lumbar support pillow behind my back and a little stool so that my feet were supported, and not dangling or barely touching the ground.
Like I mentioned above, make sure you are sitting with your back supported and your feet on the ground or a stool. Again, make sure that you aren’t leaning forward to nurse. Bring her up to you with the support of pillows.
Lay on your side facing your baby with your bellies close to each other and his head at the level of your breast. You can lay your head on a pillow with your bottom arm resting on the bed, extended above the baby’s head. Make sure that no pillows or blankets are near your baby.
Once your baby sits up, you can use that to your advantage! I frequently nursed my son with him sitting on my lap facing me. I could even recline a little, which took even more stress off my back.
Standing with baby in a carrier
Nursing while baby-wearing is not only for times when you are on the go! Nursing with your baby in a sling, wrap or soft structured carrier while standing is a great way to give your back a break from sitting so much. Check out Babywearing International for local meet-ups to try out different carriers or get help with one you already own.
Shoulder blade squeezes
Sit up in your chair and gently bring your shoulder blades together while keeping your shoulders down. Hold for 5 seconds and relax. Repeat 10-15 times, 2-3 times per day.
Transverse Abdominus Contractions
Lie down on your back with your knees bent. Gently pull in your lower belly like you are buttoning a pair of pants that are a little bit too tight. Hold for 5 seconds and relax completely. Repeat 10-20 times per day.
Start in a kneeling position with your knees at least hip-width apart and your big toes touching. Bring your butt down onto your heels as your stretch the rest of your body down and forward. Bring your arms forward as you rest your stomach on top of your thighs and your forehead on the floor or mat.
Janelle Trippany PT, DPT, PRPC, CLT is pelvic floor physical therapist in Seattle, WA where she lives and works with her husband and little boy. She is passionate about providing personalized care through every stage of a woman’s life, whether that’s during pregnancy or the postpartum period and beyond. She aims to make every treatment session friendly and comfortable and works to empower women in their healthcare journey. When not working, she loves hiking, camping and exploring the beautiful beaches of the PNW.
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