Neck and back pain from breastfeeding?

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Breastfeeding – baby is happy tucking in to their meal, you go to look up or over your shoulder and every thing hurts. Why?????

Once bub arrives all of a sudden you are spending hours of your day sitting to breastfeed. Your neck is craning over to meet baby’s gaze, and your lower back and shoulders are hunching to find that perfect position. To top it all off you are exhausted!!!!

Neck, shoulder and back pain is common when nursing a child. Especially for new mums, who have never been in this position for long periods of time before, and now are suddenly doing it all day. The pain can feel like a background ache in the neck and back area, but can also lead to decreased neck range of motion, tender pain with movement, and tenderness to touch. More severe symptoms can occur like headaches, sharper pain with movement and pain radiating down arms and/or in to the thoracic spine area.

When you are in a prolonged sitting position with your head bent forward, you start to put stress on your neck muscles. Most times we won’t even realise we have got into this position, and it’s not normally the position itself that causes pain, but the length of time you are in the position. When you hold a position like breastfeeding for a long time, it can cause the trapezius and neck extensor muscles at the back of your neck to stretch. Conversely, your neck flexors and muscles at the front of your neck tighten, which causes a muscle imbalance.

Prevention is not everyone’s favourite word – but in reducing neck and back discomfort it is key. The goal is the more you do it, the more it becomes a habit and we avoid getting in to uncomfy positions for long periods.

Prevention is not everyone’s favourite word – but in reducing neck and back discomfort it is key. The goal is the more you do it, the more it becomes a habit and we avoid getting in to uncomfy positions for long periods.

1. Changing position

Moving is key! What ever you are doing, no one’s body likes being in one position for a long period of time. Listen to everyone shuffle in their seats at the movies! So try and move or change position while feeding. Walk. Sit/stand. Change sides. Just enough so your body doesn’t sink into once position for too long. Sometime this is hard – like at 3am when everything goes out the window! But that’s okay. As long as you have diversity in your positions through the day – your body will appreciate

2. Supports – Chair and pillow

Again, movement is key! So if you have a deep comfy couch that you sink into and can’t get out of, it can sometimes sink you into those hunched forward positions – which again is okay for short periods, but not every time. Sitting in a less soft chair but using pillows to jam behind your back, sit under your baby, support your arms – what ever feels comfy. Call on family to position pillows and make sure you can change sides.

3. Expressing

Expressing can be difficult and not for everyone. But if you can have a partner or family member help with even one feeding a day – that’s more time for you to move, shower, sleep, and look after yourself!!!

4. Exercise

Pregnancy changes your body. Sometimes old injuries can be triggered again as breastfeeding can put a new type of strain on the body. It’s always important to seek professional advice about exercising during your pregnancy and what do to following. Once baby has arrived trying to increase your strength can really help your body holding in positions. Again! Moving your body is so important. Pilates, Yoga, squatting while holding your baby! All is good.

5. Extras

Short term tricks like massage can help relieve some tensions. Heat and/or cold can help – if it works for you then do it! Hot baths and showers are always nice for the body. Sleeping helps the body recover, so if you can have a 20 minute shut eye while baby is sleeping – do it!

Your body continues to show you everyday how incredible it is! So ask for help to free up your hands and try to look after yourself as well as bub!! And KEEP MOVING!!!!

If you have persisting neck or back pain from breastfeeding, book in with one of our physiotherapists.

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