Tips for how to help reduce back and neck pain while breastfeeding

Tips for how to help reduce breastfeeding related back and neck pain

Tips for how to help reduce back and neck pain while breastfeeding

Imagine the scenario – you have just got bub settled, they are feeding well and you can finally relax into this gig called breastfeeding.

Except you can’t. Because it hurts just there, no there – Actually it’s just all over. The pain is building and now it’s pulling and sharp and just aching, aching, aching… How do we do this every 2 hours + without feeling like one hot mess afterwards?

Well there is no easy remedy. We know that long term pain relief medication is not a viable option. So our next best options are; prevention and natural relief. 

Prevention is not a fun word. It sounds boring and tiring. But if we plan ahead, prevention can become a habit; A very helpful habit that can help reduce the intensity and longevity of our pain experiences. Often we think that posture is responsible for the source of our problems but it is not true.

Tips for how to help reduce breastfeeding related back and neck pain

So here are 5 tips to help prevent back and neck pain caused by breastfeeding:

  1. Changing position:

Motion is lotion for your body. We talk explicitly about this in our Posture Blog which busts myths about posture and pain – So if you have ever been told to stand up straight then this one is for you! But imagine the strain and tension that your body has to go through to remain in one position for any length of time. Even sitting through a 90 minute movie at the local cinemas (not during COVID obviously), you can hear everyone shifting and shuffling around. Now add a little human into the mix and after just 10 minutes of breastfeeding your back is on fire. 

So move. Shuffle. Walk. Stand/Sit. Have a plan – Baby is crying or alarm has gone off for feeding time. Have a pillow ready, chair clean of baby spew, stand for the first 5 minutes and walk around the room, then sit in that chair with a pillow and change sides and it goes on. Ask a partner, friend, mother in law or others to help you move, to arrange pillows or remind you to change position. Also another excuse to yell at someone. 

Obviously it won’t be like this everytime. 3am in the morning and your routine goes out the window. And that’s ok too. It’s about diversity, and not just in your shares portfolio – Mix it up and your body will thank you.

  2. Supports i.e. pillows and the like:

Tips to relieve back and neck pain during breastfeedingRemember those pillows you arranged? Yup, it’s back to them. There are some great speciality pregnancy and breastfeeding pillows out there. There are also the standard, rectangular head on pillow sort. Whatever does it for you we suggest you use them as you need; To rest the baby on, to support your back, to put under one or both arms, to roll up and rest between spine and chair to create curvature, to put under your bottom and the list goes on.

 3. Expressing:

Often, family and friends love to be involved with the care of a baby and support the breastfeeding party. A great way for them to do that is to bottle feed, either with formula or expressed milk. Babies typically feed between 8-9 times a day and even if a bottle feed can occur 1 out of 9 times during the day, that’s 1 time can mean shower time, sleep time, eat time or movement time for the person usually breastfeeding.

Expressing can be difficult and it is not an option for everyone. Check out this article from the Australian Breastfeeding Association to learn more.

4. Pick your equipment i.e. chairs:

Choose your weapon carefully. And by that we mean your chair. Find one that has sufficient support and enables easy movement. It is understandable that you may wish to find a soft, cushy chair for your tush for those early morning feeds. But a soft chair can encourage unsupportive posture and sometimes can be hard to shift from. You know the chairs I mean, you sit down in them and they feel like a hug – Love it but just not when you’re spending so much time in it. And we know posture isn’t everything but if you end up staying in a bent over position for any length of time, because you aren’t changing positions regularly, this can influence pain. So instead of encouraging that slouched/bent over position, do yourself (and your neck and back) a favour and find a chair that allows you to extend your back – A ramrod spine is not needed, just conscious positioning and movement.

5. Exercise:

Pregnancy changes your body. And pre-existing injuries and physical conditions can become exacerbated with the different strains on your body and influence your breastfeeding pain. Seek professional health advice early on in your pregnancy or when you can, to manage these conditions the best you can. This may include strengthening exercises, manual therapies or mindful movements to decrease the chance of flare-ups. 

Remember those partners, friends and family who want to help? Ask them to watch baby while they are sleeping or while they are being bottle fed. Or your at home by yourself and baby is having a nap? We encourage you to do some light exercises from home or close by. It would usually begin with some light active stretches and slowly working your way up to greater intensity as your body allows. Everybody is unique and their body would have responded to the pregnancy and birth differently, depending on previous injury fitness etc. So seek advice and start small – Baby steps some may say! 

That leads us to alternative back and neck pain relief options. And by alternative, we mean ‘other than medication’ as the key driver in pain relief.

What else can you do for your back and neck pain caused by breastfeeding:

Tips for how to help reduce breastfeeding related back and neck pain

  1. Manual therapy/Massage:

Gifts for new mummas (Or all mummas)? A massage or manual therapy session with a health professional can help to relieve tension, encourage movement and provide an opportunity for self care and relax! 

2. Active stretching/Exercise/Movement program:

As mentioned above in the prevention section, seek advice about appropriate exercises to encourage movement and plan for an increase in exercise intensity so that you have direction and motivation to (again) take baby steps in your post-baby health journey.

But try your best to move as much as you can. Often we don’t realise that we can do some type of movements/exercises with bub in our arms. You can do some little squats, calf raises and other types of workout to help. It’s important to be creative. However, if you are lacking sleep time and the mind is a bit fuzzy, getting some help from an allied health professional can support you by designing a plan that fit your unique situation.

3. Heat and ice packs:

While there is no scientific evidence behind hot and cold packs, if they provide relief then use them! You can utilise this as a short term relief option and vary between hot and cold packs as suits you. But remember no longer than a 20 minute application for each. 

4. Floating tank:

Floatation therapy is a form of relaxation therapy where you suspend yourself in a tank of warm, Epsom salt water and the super-saturated amount of salt causes you to float. Because you are not subjected to gravity anymore, your body can completely relax and feel  like floating over the sky. Flotation can be complementary to seeing an Osteopath and it can help you to switch off from momma duties for a while.

IN RECAP:

Wow – There was a lot to take in. So how are you expected to change position, exercise, sleep when baby sleeps etc. AND function as a sleep deprived adult?? Well there is no easy answer; But the best option is do what suits you best. 

This can be considered as a toolbox of strategies – Now that you are mindful of how and why back and neck pain occurs while breastfeeding, you can use them as they suit you and your baby best. 

We hope that this blog can help you implement some strategies.

A OSTEOPATH assesses your problem HOLISTICALLY, provides a diagnosis and helps you understand what’s wrong while considering your general health, activities, and lifestyle. They treat your complaint with a variety of “active” therapies, such as HOLISTIC exercise programs THAT DO NOT FOCUS ON ONE AREA OF YOUR BODY BUT THE ENTIRE BODY. They also use “passive” therapies, such as massage, joint manipulation, and mobilisation (a technique used to increase movement of a joint). If you need more help with your unique situation, don’t hesitate to reach out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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