Feeding. You may be breastfeeding or bottle feeding. It does not matter. Regardless of the way you feed your little one, posture is something everyone can relate to. Which raises the question, what are best breastfeeding positions?
Finding a position that your little one enjoys and feeds best in is your priority.
But sometimes that position may not work well for you and then you suffer the consequences (like neck and upper back pain) of feeding in awkward positions.
Many new mothers experience pain in their upper back, neck and lower back.
This is due to many reasons but the main ones being
- Feeding posture
- Picking up and carrying your new baby
- Increasing weight of your baby
- Weakness in your arms, shoulders and upper back
If you start to feel pain in your upper back, lower back or neck, it may be worth having a look at how you are sitting when feeding your baby.
Hunching over and looking down towards them is NORMAL and we do not want you to stop doing that, it’s such a special time so enjoy it. But try and support your arms as they are taking more weight than you may realise.
What Is The Best Breastfeeding Position or Posture?
The short answer, none!
In an ideal world, you would sit in a straight back chair, sitting up nice and tall with your shoulders down, eyes forwards (not down at your adorable bubba!), knees bent and feet on the ground.
But we know that ideal might not be achievable for many mums.
So instead, in this blog we will discuss some other strategies you can use to help reduce the strain on your neck, shoulders and upper back.
How To Minimise Strain On Your Body While Feeding
Below are some common positions that you may feed your baby in and a few easy tips and tricks to minimise the strain on your body (because you don’t have time to be injured!).
Sitting In Your Feeding Chair
One of the things you might have spent time (and $$$!) on is finding that beautiful feeding chair to suit your nursery.
And while it looks amazing, it may not be comfortable when it comes to the real test when you start feeding your little one. Bugger! Buy a new chair? No way!!
Instead try to make sure your whole spine in supported by using pillows!
- Try one in the curve of your lower back
- Prop one under your elbow and forearm to help support your baby’s head
If your feeding chair is a style that reclines, limit the amount of time spent in the reclined position.
This position causes your pelvis to tilt posteriorly (backwards) which can lead to lower back pain.
Sitting In Bed In The Middle Of The Night
Let’s face it, your baby is crying in the middle of the night and you are definitely NOT in the mood to set yourself up in a nice supportive chair.
No. You want convenience and comfort so you feed them in bed. As long as you don’t do this for every feed it is okay.
We encourage women (and men!) to try to avoid sitting with both legs out straight. This breastfeeding position can wind up your neural (nervous) system and can led to back pain, leg pain and tightness.
- Try sitting with one leg bent and one out straight and keep swapping legs every so often
- Change positions (or legs) whenever your baby takes a break to burp
- Try laying on your side (with a pillow supporting your neck) with your baby lying next to you.
Feeding While Sitting On The Couch
Again, comfort and convenience! And the TV is there too, so you can feast your eyes on that while your little one has something to eat!
Couches come in all shapes, sizes and levels of firmness. Sometimes they are not the most supportive of places to feed your baby but try these few tips below to minimise the risk of lower back pain .
For an improved breastfeeding position try:
1. To prop yourself up with pillows. You can also try resting your baby on a large, firm pillow to support them and minimise how much support you need to give them.
2. If you are in for a long-haul feed and want to watch television while you’re on duty, try and position yourself front on to the TV so that you are not turning your head and neck (this will strain your neck and can lead to pain and at times headaches).
Feeding Out While Socialising/In Public Places
Why don’t they have a nice area that you can feed your baby? We hear you! That would just be too convenient!
Sometimes there is not much that can be done here and you have to ride it out.
- Once you have fed your baby, try passing them off to one of your friends or relatives to give yourself and your body a break (and let’s face it, who doesn’t love baby cuddles!).
Stretches To Help Relieve Your Neck And Back Pain
1. If you are looking down at your baby when feeding them, when they are comfortably feeding take your eyes off them and straighten up your neck. Then tip your ear to the opposite shoulder (opposite to the side you were looking down on)
2. If you have a low back chair, pop both hands behind your head (if and when they are free after feeding!) and arch back over it. Sometimes you might get a pop or crack if you’re lucky!
3. If you have a foam roller (or if you don’t, you can roll up a thick towel as a substitute), find the stiff area in your upper back, place the roller there and arch over it. Then try rolling up and down to loosen all through the muscles of your upper back.
Sometimes despite being conscious of your breastfeeding positions you may need a bit of extra help (and don’t be afraid to ask for it!) and that is okay!
As physiotherapists, we can provide different hands on treatment techniques such as :
The trick is to not let it get out of hand. Make an appointment at our Grange physio clinic if you are feeling tight and sore from feeding your new little bundle of joy!