By: Dr. Kiri Krishingner, PT, Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist
No one talks about how much time new moms spend breastfeeding…let’s change that! The average newborn eats 8-12 times in a 24-hour period. I remember some feedings that took almost an hour when my son was first born. Depending on how efficient your baby is, this could translate to breastfeeding/attempting to breastfeed for 8 hours a day. If we calculate it this way, breastfeeding is a 56-hour per week career, or in other words, a full-time job PLUS overtime.
In a perfect world, every new mom has a nursing pillow that fits her needs just right and an ergonomically correct chair that allows her to blissfully recline while the baby eats. HA!
Anyone that has ever breastfed knows how hilariously false that is the majority of the time.
You have to take care of yourself too!
Breastfeeding be extremely stressful. Many new moms (myself included) are thinking about literally everything other than body position. As long as the baby is eating happily, we forget to take care of ourselves. One of the most common (and most unaddressed complaints) I get from new moms is neck and shoulder pain with breastfeeding.
When it comes to any repetitive activity, maintaining faulty posture or positioning becomes hard on the body. Sitting with rounded shoulders, our head hanging over a baby, and our back slumped for 56 hours a week? Same thing.
The good news is, neck and shoulder pain while breastfeeding is preventable.
Three things to consider with your nursing posture:
1. The nursing pillow is everything. Get a nursing pillow that elevates your baby on your lap high enough to where you do not have to bring your body to the baby, but rather the baby comes to you. If you have to improvise, put extra pillows underneath your nursing pillow to accomplish this.
2. Avoid chairs that force you to sit in a “C” position – aka, your entire spine slumped forward. If you do not have many chair options, put a pillow behind the small of your back in whatever chair you use. This will put you in an upright position, preventing the “flexed” position of your lumbar spine, and will set your shoulders up for a successful posture.
3. Your head position matters. As lovely as it is to look at your sweet babe while they eat, try to rest your head against the back of the chair. Maintaining the neutral spine position, even while sitting, is crucial to prevent neck pain.