Breastfeeding and Your Spine
Spine Saving Tips for You and Your Baby While Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding (and bottle feeding) takes practice. Learning how to hold and support your baby in a comfortable position requires coordination and patience. Breastfeeding a newborn can take up to 10-12 hours (or more) of your day. You may find yourself sitting and lying down in sometimes very creative positions. However, poor posture while breastfeeding is one of the biggest reasons for back pain. So how do you avoid back and neck pain or even headaches during feeding sessions?
Here are some spine saving tips for you and your baby:
It’s easy to want to look down at your baby all of the time. Especially when you have just started breast or bottle feeding. You want to make sure your baby’s latch is good. When they are very young, you want to make sure they are staying awake enough to eat. However, when we look down for an entire feeding session, our head gets heavy. It pulls on your neck muscles that are trying to hold it up. This posture is then repeated several times day and night. Prevent neck pain, upper back pain, and headaches by looking up every few minutes. Move your head around – look up, look from side to side, a few times in each direction. Take a few moments for yourself several times a day to stretch your neck, upper back, and chest muscles.
Relax your mind and body. It’s easy to tense up in your upper back and shoulders as you try to hold your baby in a perfect position. Often times, you don’t even realize how tense you are until the feeding session is over. Try bringing your baby to you by using supportive pillows. This will prevent you from feeling like you have to hold your baby, constantly engaged in your arm and upper back muscles. There are several options when it comes to breastfeeding or nursing pillows. Look for something with a removable cover that you can wash. A half-moon pillow is often comfortable for both you and your baby. You can always add other supportive pillows under your arms. When possible, relax back in a chair and raise your feet on a stool. Take a couple of deep breaths and get comfortable.
Check in on your posture and the position of all of your joints. Support your entire spine in a comfortable chair, with extra back supports or pillows. Avoid sitting on your lower legs and feet. Keep your wrists neutral and your elbows close to your body. Keeping your baby’s joints in a neutral position while feeding is important too! Bring their chest to your chest to avoid too much neck rotation. Support their lower back, pelvis, and legs with your arms or with pillows. This will prevent excessive lower back extension.
Change It Up:
You may have your go-to feeding position that works well for you and your baby. However, try to change it up as much as you can to avoid chronic stiffness and pain. Switch from one breast to the other during the same feeding session or alternate feeding sessions. This is important for the development of your baby’s spine and head control. Switch chairs when you can, and feeding positions. Some common breastfeeding positions are the cradle-hold, the cross-cradle, the football hold, and the reclining position. You can even try breastfeeding standing up, using a wrap or carrier to help support your baby. Leave your seat, stand up and walk around between feeding sessions, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes at a time.
Remember to take care of yourself. Sleep, exercise, hydration and good nutrition are essential. A supportive bra will help alleviate stress from your upper back and neck. Don’t endure the aches and pains that come with poor feeding posture, holding and carrying your baby. Take time to move and stretch your muscles. A warm bath with Epsom salts can be a big help too. Visit your chiropractor and massage therapist at Curavita. Our team has extensive experience working with pregnant moms, new moms and busy moms! We can offer other spine saving tips to support you in your new role.