Breastfeeding & Back Health - The ultimate position for pain-free nursing
It's #BreastfeedingAwarenessMonth - how exciting is that! I could take this post to tell you about my experience with #breastfeeding in public, or how I got insulted for that once in San Francisco (I was even completely covered!). But as a massage therapist I'd like to raise awareness towards your back health when breastfeeding.
I've got a lot (!) of new mom's coming in with all the same issue: back pain.
The pain comes from a lot new movements, like picking up the new baby from the cod, playing with him or her on the floor, changing diapers on a not very ergonomic changing table. However, the most common reason are breastfeeding positions that may work for the baby, but not for you.
As a Mom of 3 that tested all kinds of positions to find THE one, I thought I could weigh in here.
For my first one, I nursed basically everywhere and in every thinkable position (I even nursed while walking down the Presidio!)
I tried a nursing pillow, but it just did not work very well for me, as I was always on the go.
The position most often used was thus sitting either on a bench or on a picnic blanket crossed-legged, slouching forward. Or trying to lean on some tree, yet still having the shoulders forward to hold the little one. You see in the pictures how the moms look oh-so-happy and just so harmonious? Well, They still have to carry the baby so s/he won't fall off. The still look down - putting so much weight on the spine just to have a glimpse on this beautiful little thing in their arms.
I did not feel pain immediately, but with repetition and doing it just too often too wrong, back pain came daily, accompanied by mastitis (far too often) and plugged ducts. (side note: here the one and only platform that really helped me with that - as so much advice I got was quite often contradictory and did not work because, well, yes when you pump to decrease the pressure on your breasts, you will also produce more milk as a result...vicious circle isn't it?)
SO WHAT'S THE BEST POSITION FOR BREASTFEEDING?
Well, two more kids later, I totally changed the breastfeeding experience for me and my baby.
I (almost) never nurse outside. I am always home (the lockdown helps in this case...), and if I am outside I always have a picnic blanket to be able to lay down. Yes, you heard me. I lay down, usually in my bed. And nurse this way.
It gives me a break from the sleepless nights (no more sleepless nights now luckily, but still, a break is always welcome with three kids.)
It gives my baby the sense that I am completely there. I am not on my phone. I am not in the room with her siblings. Or other people. I am nursing in my bedroom, a closed space, lying down, just me and her. My other kids know they should not come in at that time. I savior every moment. The only times I had to "emergency" nurse outside followed right away with the start of an inflammation in my breast. I don't wear a bra. No bag with strap over my breast. Plus a simple 5-10 minutes stretch routine every morning to wake up my body.
DO YOUR STRETCHES - MOVE YOUR BODY!
Here are a few super easy stretches you can do if, or even if not (prevention is key here!), you are experiencing back pain due to breastfeeding. It's a great blog post summarizing a few stretches you can do to alleviate any back pain related to the same positioning when breastfeeding. I would highly recommend doing them every morning and evening, hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds (some experts even say 2 minutes!), and repeat as needed (when you're in pain).
WHAT IF I CANNOT LIE DOWN WHILE NURSING?
If the lying down position absolutely does not work for you (I can't tell you enough how this is the ultimate position for me!), the importance is to switch up the different breastfeeding positions as often as possible, just not to always have the rounded shoulders causing strain on the same muscles over and over. Here you can find a great resource for different positions.
I hope this little article will help you to enjoy every moment as pain-free as possible with this new little bundle of joy in your life. Have you tried different positions? Did you encounter any challenges during breastfeeding? I would love to hear from you! Until then, enjoy every moment - even the "waking up at night", because, who knows - it might be the last time this will actually happen. The last time the baby wakes up at night before she sleeps through the night. Enjoy it until it lasts. Think of it as a positive experience.
Sending you love and strength,
Johanna is a California Certified Massage Therapist, Mom of 3, currently living in Melbourne, Australia. She loves the outdoors, chocolate and believes that the most important element of raising children is to show them your unconditional love (like when you share your chocolate).