Breastfeeding Body Mechanics for Post Birth Healing
We all know the stresses and strains that pregnancy and labor have on the body, and it doesn’t end there. After the baby is born, if all goes well, then breastfeeding becomes the next big challenge on the body of the new mom.
Knowing how long it can take to feed a newborn we need to understand the strains the positions we get into have on our body. Especially when we are still healing from the birth.
Whether a vaginal birth or a belly birth let’s figure out what your body needs from you for healing while you breast feed your baby.
The most popular and convenient way to feed your baby is in sitting. Remember, your vaginal birth can cause your sit bones to be splayed open out to the sides and your tailbone lifted backwards. Plus, if you tore you now have stitches and a wound that needs to heal on your perineum. Make sure when you go to feed your baby that you sit as evenly as possible on your sit bones so the tissues can heal and avoid leaning on one side more than the other. Place a pillow behind your back to keep an arch in your low back and pressures off of your tailbone.
The most common thing that happens to most of us when we go to sit is we tuck our bottom underneath and put pressure on our tailbone. If you injured your tailbone during birth you really want to avoid sitting with any pressure on it at all. Seeing a Birth Healing practitioner or a pelvic floor PT can help you balance out the pelvic floor muscles on either side of the tailbone to allow it to heal in a better position. Sitting for long periods of time with pressure on your tailbone does nothing for allowing your pelvic floor muscles to work better after birth.
One of the most compromised functions of the body after birth is your core. Focusing on rehabbing your core should be a priority. How you sit during your breastfeeding could be a time to really help your core out. Staying off your tailbone, sitting evenly on your ischiums, or sit bones, is a start but what you do with your upper body is just as important.
In order for your core to function well you need your ribcage to be stacked on top of your pelvis. This is best done with your spine straight and not curved forward. To do this during breastfeeding you need to focus on bringing the baby up to the breast, keeping a straight spine, and not the breast down to the baby which causes a curved spine. Pillows are your friends to help make this happen.
There are many other components to a good functioning core that I discuss in my online course Confidence in your Core, Pelvic Floor and More. There’s a whole section on breastfeeding and everything you need to know in how to restrengthen your core safely and effectively.
When your body is weak after birth a side lying position for breastfeeding can be the most effective way to keep excessive strains off your body. Just make sure your head is well supported in as neutral of a position as possible once you have the baby latched onto the breast. Propping up on one elbow for long periods of time puts strain on your neck and wrist.
The other big problem with breastfeeding is the strain it can put on your neck. For smaller breasted people you really have to crane your neck down to be able to see your baby’s latch. Even just looking down so much at your baby, whether feeding them or not, your head and neck muscles get out of balance.
The head is like a suspension bridge. The muscles in the front and the back need to be in balance for the head to stay happy in the middle. Too much looking down causes the anterior neck muscles to get tight and lengthens the posterior muscles. This can cause an ache or knot in the muscles of your neck and shoulders. The tendency is to want to stretch where the pain is, but this is not helpful. The problem lies in the front and stretching the anterior neck muscles can help the pain in the back of the neck and shoulders.
To stretch the front of the neck, look up to the ceiling but do it in a way that doesn’t cause your head to collapse in on your spine. Do it so that your spine elongates as you look up and your head goes backwards.
Only go to a point where the stretch in the front starts and hold it there. You can intensify the stretch by jutting your jaw forward as in an underbite. You can also do the same motion but turn your head so your ear now falls behind one shoulder. Find the right angle that gives you the best stretch to the front of your neck on the opposite side to the direction of your head. Jutting your jaw once you find the right angle will intensify the stretch. Hold the gentle stretch for a good minute or two. If you can’t hold the stretch that long you may have too intense of a stretch going on. Back off a bit and see if you can hold it longer.
When you find yourself spending lots of time looking down at your baby, give yourself a break and look up at the ceiling and stretch the front of your neck. This will help keep the back of your neck and shoulders happier.
Speaking of shoulders those need some good stretching too after carrying and holding your baby. I encourage you to reach your hands up to the corners of a door jam, obviously when you are not carrying your baby, and allow the fronts of your shoulders to stretch out. Tuck your shoulder blades down into the opposite back pocket to really get a good stretch in your shoulders. If you have a foam roller lay on the roller lengthwise so the roller is the same direction as your spine. Your head can either be on or off of the roller. Allow your arms to splay out to the sides to form a “T” and/or a “Y”. Both of these will really help keep your anterior shoulder muscles stretched out from carrying and feeding your baby all day.
I hope these ideas help you keep your body as happy and as balanced as possible as your care for your newborn. It’s tough work not only mentally but physically as well. Keeping yourself as balanced as possible, in all ways, will help you been the best mom you can be!