Why do we experience back pain whilst breastfeeding?
In celebrating World Breastfeeding Day 2018, we wanted to talk about back pain when feeding your little bundles of joy. I have two children myself and vividly remember the first 6-9 months having varying levels of mid back pain whilst breastfeeding which I could never quite get rid of (here is a little picture of my first for attention!).
So why do so many of us experience these symptoms when feeding?
Well we all know the temporary changes in pelvic and spinal posture we go through when growing these gorgeous babies.
We also have changes in hormone levels (blame high levels of progesterone) affecting our ligamentous status. This is important because the ligaments cross joints and hold the bones in a rigid end position, so these hormone changes cause a ‘loosening’ of the joints. So when we sit feeding our babies we curve our mid spine forwards. The amount of bending is likely to be more so than pre-pregnancy.
We also have reduced core muscles as our pelvic floor and transversus abdominis have been stretched or interrupted during pregnancy and labour.
Lastly, we may have been sitting in a prolonged sitting posture pre-baby (i.e. desk based working) but now we are sitting for very long periods breastfeeding, holding the weight of a baby in our arms, trying to gain a successful latch … all whilst pretty exhausted!
So what practical things can we do to help alleviate some of these symptoms of pain and stiffness we get whilst breast feeding?
- Use pillow, and lots of them!
My husband joked that after I gave birth to my first he would fit back in the bed as I had a super huge U shaped pregnancy pillow. Sadly for him, I quickly realised how great it was for propping me up in bed and lifting the baby up closer to me to feed. So I actually kept this pillow for a good 4 months after both babies. Don’t worry if you don’t have one of these, just try and make sure you have plenty of pillows around you (in bed but also other places you feed, like the sofa) so you can make yourself (behind your back) comfortable but also use under the baby to lift them up closer to you.
- Try to avoid looking down at your baby all the way through the feed (or your phone).
I know they are so super cute, and you are checking the latch, but once they are latched on well (bottle or breast), try and keep looking ahead rather than down. It might seem super obvious but keeping a more neutral upright position during the feed with certainly help avoid excessive bending through the mid back.
- Alternative different feeding positions.
There are such a variety of breastfeeding positions to try so mix up the traditional cradle hold for others such as the football hold or in side lying. Here is a great article about the different hold types.
- Try to stretch out!
Of course being a physiotherapist I tried some of the well-known stretches I use with my patients too. Finding the time to complete these is difficulty, especially if you have more than one baby, have returned to work or have a baby with colic. But it is important to try and find even just 3-5 mins a day for yourself and these are brilliant stretches to help.
UPPER BODY TWISTS – in sitting, hands across your shoulders, then twist torso slowly to left and right side x20 reps / x2 sets
TOWEL STRETCH – lie on a rolled towel down between the shoulder blades on the floor. Lie for 2-3 minutes.
5. Treatment – There are certain ‘hands-on’ techniques that can help symptoms of pain and stiffness in the back area such as as massage, joint mobilisation and taping techniques. I did book in for a few treatments over the first 6 months just to help keep symptoms at bay whilst I used all the above techniques.
If you want to speak to one of our London Physiotherapy Team about symptoms you experiencing, do give us a call on 020 8901 6464 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do let us know if you have any questions of if you would like to speak to one of the team!