Neck and shoulder pain is a common post partum issue that I see in the clinic almost daily. The new demands put on a woman’s body during the post partum period can take time to adjust to. Physically supporting the weight of a baby in your arms sure can feel heavy after a while. And perhaps most importantly, mamas are falling in love with their little ones and can’t help but look down at them all the time. While gazing for hours at the amazing little being you created is natural (and so wonderful), it can cause some pretty intense muscle fatigue and discomfort.
Luckily, I have a few tips and positioning tricks to share that will help support your posture as you breastfeed and minimize discomfort. Hopefully this enables you to have a more comfortable, joyful bonding experience with your newborn.
Tip #1: Always Support with pillows
Tip #2: When you're tired, Lie down
Breastfeeding while lying on your side is one of the most comfortable and posture supportive positions you can be in! You can do it in bed, on the couch, on the floor, in the back seat of a car (only while it is parked), or even at the beach! You can tuck a pillow under baby, and be sure to tuck a pillow or two under your head and neck for extra support. This is also a very useful position if you and baby are struggling with a rapid let down of milk as there is less gravity pushing milk through the nipple.
Tip #3: Use tools to hold baby up
Infant slings are not just for use outside the house! You can use them to carry baby around inside with you, and even use it to hold baby’s weight while you breastfeed. Baby’s weight will be more evenly distributed across your entire torso instead of using just your arms for strength and support. I hear many moms who use this style for feeding enjoy having their hands and arms free to do other tasks as well.
All slings are a little bit different, an usually have a variety of ways to wrap them. Exactly how you use it for breastfeeding will depend on your particular sling style. My philosophy is if you can use a gadget to carry a load for you, then why not?!
The style of breastfeeding you choose will depend on yours and baby’s needs, your environment, and what works best for you. However; these three tips can be applied to a variety of situations and positions to maximize your comfort and minimize the strain on your body. My last tip is that for every 5 minutes you spend looking down at your baby while he/she feeds, spend one minute looking in the opposite direction. For example, if your baby is feeding on your left breast and you are looking down, every so often be sure to look up and to the right side of the room you are in. This will help give your neck and shoulder muscles a little bit of a break.
Of course I always recommend checking in with your registered massage therapist for some post partum treatment and advice.
If you have any other tips and tricks that worked really well for you, please share them with me in the comments below. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.