It’s currently World Breastfeeding Week 2020. The aim of this week is to “support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”. UNICEF and the WHO are calling on governments to provide women with access to skilled breastfeeding counsellors. It hopes to normalise and de-stigmatise breastfeeding, and as a pelvic health and postnatal physiotherapist that’s something I can definitely get behind. I understand that breastfeeding is not always possible, and I know first-hand how tough it can be, so I’m certainly not aiming to make anyone feel bad who doesn’t or didn’t breastfeed.
However, if you are attempting breastfeeding, then I believe the correct support is essential. Not just in the cheer-leading and advising sense (which is hugely important), but also physically. As a physiotherapist, I see lots of women struggling with back pain, as a result of poor sitting posture whilst feeding their babies. Remember feeding happens numerous times a day (and in some cases, night), and for quite lengthy periods of time. Your comfort can have a huge impact on your chances of success - if feeding causes you back pain, then it is logical that you are more likely to stop, perhaps sooner than you would have done otherwise. There are a few simple things you can do to minimise the potential for aches and pains when feeding:
* Always get yourself comfortable first, before trying to latch the baby on
* Sit in a supportive chair where possible, ideally with a high back rest, and ideally with arms
* Wiggle your bottom right back in the chair
* Support your lumbar curve (lower back) with a small rolled up towel or small cushion
* Use a foot stool to lift your knees up so that they are higher than your hips
* Place a pillow on your lap to help support the baby and bring it up to you
* Rest your elbow (on the side you are planning to feed on) on the arm rest of the chair, if it has one
* Now you can get the baby latched on...
* Then, try to keep your shoulders back and down, don't let you shoulders creep up towards your ears, and try to not look down at your baby continually (no matter how gorgeous they are) 💕
* This should help reduce the potential for back, neck, shoulder pain and headaches that we often see associated with breastfeeding posture.
I know it’s hard to listen to your baby crying whilst you get yourself set up, and it can seem like there is quite a lot of faffing around involved, but it is worth it.
If you are comfortable, relaxed, and pain free, then the baby is more likely to also relax and feed more effectively and efficiently. Happy mummy, happy baby. 👶🏻