A common complaint from new mothers in clinical practise is soreness through the neck, shoulders and upper back following feeding of their newborn. This special time between a mother and their baby is a unique bonding experience, and shouldn’t be disturbed by pain, stress and discomfort.
When you are feeding, you often spend a significant period of time looking down, and holding the baby in your arms. This can place considerable pressure on your neck and create fatigue in your upper arms and shoulders.
I have put together a few go-to exercises that can be done in a small amount of time, with no equipment, (and minimal sleep!) Thank-you to our lovely Naturopath, Yannick for being our model. Yannick is pregnant with her second child and highlights how these exercises can also be completed whilst pregnant.
-Placing a rolled-up towel or foam roller along the length of your spine, no higher than your shoulders
-Bending up your knees to support your lower back
-Spread your arms out to the side, with palms facing up, at or above shoulder height
-To increase this stretch you can place a small weight in each hand, like a can of beans.
This exercise helps to stretch out the front of your chest, reduce any neural tension in your arms and increases upper back extension (the opposite movement you complete when feeding!)
Holding for 2 minutes.
- Open door pectoral stretch
-Place your forearm against a door frame
-Ensure that your shoulder is at least 90 degrees from the body
-Lunge forward with the leg on the same side and gently twist away to feel a stretch across the front of your chest
This stretch is one of my favourites, it can literally be done anywhere. Find yourself a pole a tree or the side of a building
Hold for 25 seconds, complete on both sides
-Lying on your side with your head supported, arms out in front and your knee’s bent up (place a pillow between your knees for comfort if needed)
-Lift the top up arm and bring it across your body, rotating your upper back. As the arm moves away turn your neck around to look at it.
-Keep your knees stacked and pelvis still
-Take a breath and return to your starting position stretching out just a little bit further than your bottom arm
This movement helps create mobility and reduce stiffness through your upper ribs and back whilst increasing the flexibility through your pectoral muscles.
Repeat 10 x, on both sides.
- Childs pose with side stretch
-Starting on hands and knees, with the feet together and knees apart
-Sitting back onto your heels, leave your arms forward with palms planted on the floor
-Gently walk your hands to one side, creating a stretch across the opposite side of your body
When sitting for long periods or even holding a child on your hip, you can find that the space between your armpit and top of your pelvis can become compressed. This exercises helps to traction out this line of compression, and is great for relieving generalised lower back tightness.
Repeat on both sides, holding for 25 seconds
What is the ideal breast feeding position for my body?
This is a tough question, and not one I can answer for all women. Lots of mothers have trouble breast feeding and that is a completely normal experience. Lactation consultants are available to assist and provide support during this process. But remember not all advice is relevant to use, pick and choose what works for you, and don’t persist with something that is painful or doesn’t feel right.
One thing that is important to remember is that if your body is hunched for prolonged periods of time it can reduce your milk supply. So having a few back up positions to try, and change to can be beneficial for your supply, but also reduce the demands on certain muscles and joints in your body.
-Sit in a chair with good back support and arm rests (or use some pillows to prop up your arms)
-Rest your feet on a foot stool to keep them flat
-Keep your baby’s spine and neck straight makes the position more comfortable for them and can aid their latch
I found this website very useful in going through all of the common holds, and applying some tips to make them more effective.