So along with all of these breastfeeding struggles, I started to have a lot of upper back and neck pain soon after my daughter was born. As a new mom I was suddenly sitting all the time, hunched over and staring at my baby as she nursed.
Don’t get me wrong, breastfeeding is a beautiful thing and I have so many cozy memories of nursing my daughter that I will cherish forever.
That being said, breastfeeding can also be very hard on your body, especially your spine and core.
Luckily, as a physical therapist, I know a thing or two about body mechanics and optimal posture! I was able to make a few adjustments to my nursing “set up”, add some activity to my overall routine, and find some awesome breastfeeding equipment.
The result? No more back pain, feeling physically healthier, and a mental health boost was an added bonus!
So lets talk about what I did to improve my breast feeding game and eliminate my back pain.
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8 TIPS TO ELIMINATE NECK AND BACK PAIN FROM BREASTFEEDING
If you choose to breastfeed, you and your baby are going to spend a lot of time breastfeeding during those first several months. It is well worth getting the right equipment and finding comfortable positions for nursing.
1. Get a good nursing pillow
I like the My Breast Friend nursing pillow because it straps around your back, keeping the pillow close to your body throughout your nursing session. It can also travel with you around the house hands-free!
2. Baby should have good posture too
Baby’s posture is important too. You do not want your baby’s neck or back twisted for long periods of time. This can contribute towards musculoskeletal issues like torticollis in your baby.
To learn more about torticollis, check out this post:
When nursing, your baby’s ear, shoulder and hip should all be in a straight line when you look at him from the side.
3. Do NOT lift your baby to your breast
Your elbows and forearms should be able to rest comfortably on your nursing pillow. Remember, you should not have to actively lift your baby when you are in a good position.
If you find that you are still leaning over or lifting your baby to your breast, add another pillow below the nursing pillow to bring your baby up to your breast. I have a long torso, so this was a must for me!
4. Add pillows behind your back
If your back is still rounded because you are sitting on a deep couch, chair or bed, put pillows behind your back. You can also use pillows behind your back to help your feet reach the floor if they are dangling.
5. Use a foot stool
A breastfeeding stool like the My Breast Friend Nursing Stool, will give good support to your lower body if your feet were otherwise dangling. Dangling legs can ultimately cause strain to your back.
A breastfeeding stool can also elevate your lap to help bring your baby to your breast more easily.
6. Support your back when laying down
If you are nursing your baby while laying on your side, put a towel roll or a pillow behind your back. Also put a towel roll behind your baby’s back so you can both rest comfortably while breastfeeding.
Laying down to nurse takes some practice but is a pretty wonderful technique once mastered. It allows your spine to being in neutral and relaxed position.
If you do choose to lay down while breastfeeding, make sure that you have removed any loose bedding and that you are able to stay awake. These precautions are to reduce the risk of SIDS in young infants.
7. Switch up your breastfeeding positions
You might master a breastfeeding position and stick to it, which is totally fine! However, maintaining the same static position for an extended period of time is a common culprit for neck and back pain.
If you start having neck or back pain from breastfeeding, trying different positions may give those strained body parts a a chance to recover. Your body was made to move and your spine is mobile for a reason!
8. Stretch and move between nursing sessions
You will probably spend a lot of time sitting still to breastfeed. Make sure you move your body between nursing sessions to prevent back stiffness and pain.
Walking and yoga are both great activities for stretching your back and moving your body. You can also do both of these activities with your baby.
Feel free to check out these free exercise handouts to prevent neck and back pain from breastfeeding! I did these exercises and stretches routinely during my maternity leave to eliminate my own neck and back pain from breastfeeding.
Also, make sure you get a supportive carrier if you walk with your baby to further prevent neck and back pain. I discuss my favorite carriers for every infant age in this post.