Breastfeeding is one of those things you’re told is great for baby.
It can improve the bonding process, it increases baby’s immunity and provides nourishment and nutrients for your baby.
Breastfeeding is said to come naturally to mums and babies and can take a little while to get used too.
It can be a steep learning curve especially when some challenges occur, such as cracked nipples, low lactation and feeling anxious.
You may start to worry if your baby is getting enough.
Your breasts may become engorged leading to blocked ducts or mastitis.
These are things that are typically mentioned if you see a lactation consultant or at least chat with a friend whose breastfed.
But what about how breastfeeding affects the rest of your body?
Yes, breastfeeding can help you slim down from the pregnancy weight. And it can prolong the return of your period.
Although I must admit for me my chest got bigger with each child 🙂
What you may not have known is it also keeps certain hormones circulating in your body for longer, which means your tissues are softer longer and more susceptible to injury or dysfunction.
How does this affect breastfeeding and your body.
Breastfeeding mums often present with back and neck problems alongside the other challenges.
Holding your baby to breastfeed can take a lot of effort. For a healing body that is already weak, this means compensations and bad habits form.
You may slouch to bring the breast to baby instead of propping up with a pillow.
You’re sitting more.
You’re constantly looking down at baby.
Your shoulders and neck are already tense in anticipation due to pain when feeding.
Your feet may not be able to relax because the chair isn’t at the correct height.
Your holding your baby higher so that they latch on for longer and you don’t want them to let go.
All this adds up to pain.
So how can you avoid getting a pain in your neck or back while breastfeeding?
A good supportive chair is a must or a comfortable couch.
Points to consider when buying a breastfeeding chair.
- Decide if you prefer a rocking, stationary chair. Movement can be a great tool to help soothe a fussy baby without putting a strain on mom. Although sometimes getting out of a rocking chair can be challenging.
- Look for chairs with wide padded armrests. You’ll be spending a lot of time leaning your arms on them while holding your baby. Chairs with wooden arms or small arm rests are not ideal.
- Try sitting in the chair with your breastfeeding support pillow. Doing this before you purchase the chair will help you make sure you can fit comfortably with the pillow! Sometimes the chair arms are a bit too high or narrow to fit, and you want to be as comfortable as possible.
- Try out the chair first to see if you can comfortably get out without too much effort. Some couches or chairs are very low or you sink down into them and are not the best to manoeuvre your way out especially during the night.
- Having a footrest can be crucial when you want to rest a little plus those who have shorter legs will benefit from the support and aligns the pelvis and spine. Getting a separate ottoman is a good idea too!
- Consider chairs with lumbar support. It can help with back pain caused by bad posture while breastfeeding. If your chair doesn’t have lumber support you can always add a lumber pillow to support your back while breastfeeding.
Posture and Positioning
When you are feeding make sure you follow these steps
- Always bring baby towards you to latch- tummy to tummy.
- Once your baby is on correctly take 3 deep breaths and relax your shoulders.
- Lean back into the chair or couch making sure you are not slouching.
- While feeding you can roll your shoulders and do neck stretches always making sure your come back to a neutral position.
- No twisting of the upper body. If you find you are twisting you need to reposition yourself until you are seated in a neutral position.
- Staring at your baby is very normal but if you are feeling a strain, your positioning may not be right or you have a weak posture. This is very common for pregnant and breastfeeding mums. But it’s important to seek advice from a physio or exercise professional to help you regain your core and upper body strength.
Feeding when lying down.
- Lying down is also an option especially during the night but this position comes with its own challenges. Mattress being too soft so your body isn’t aligned.
- Looking at your baby while lying can also put a lot of strain on your neck so making sure you have a pillow to rest your head. Not too high and not too low.
- Pillow between your knees will support your back and pelvis. This make lying down on your side a lot more comfortable.
- Pillow against your back can also help.
Safety first – never fall asleep with your baby while feeding
Causes of muscle tension and poor posture is often associated due to weak muscles and poor core strength.
Staying active both through pregnancy and after is important.
Looking after our pelvic floor, core muscles and upper body such as neck and shoulders is the best way to avoid any postural issues.
Find a person to help you regain your strength whether that is in functional training, walking, swimming, the gym or yoga and Pilates.