Help ease breastfeeding pain with postpartum yoga
When it comes to feeding your baby, you may have heard about the pain of cracked nipples or blocked ducts. (Please see a lactation consultant as it’s not my remit to give them advice!) But there can be other physical pain associated with breastfeeding. For them, yoga comes to the rescue!
So why is there pain during breastfeeding?
Why does pain occur during breastfeeding?
There are a number of reasons why pain may occur during breastfeeding. These include incorrect posture during feeding, repetitive movements, as well as pain from holding the baby for a long time.
This can lead to pain in different parts of the body.
Let’s look at some of the different pains and give you some reliable solutions to these problems so that you can feed your baby with more comfort and ease!
- Wrist/finger pain
- A tense neck
- Pain in the upper back
- pain in the ribs
- Pain in the shoulder and a general feeling as if they are losing their posture
- Tight psoas and hip pain from all the sitting
How to Relieve Pain in Your Wrist or Thumb (Mom’s Thumb)
- This is sometimes called “mommy’s thumb”. The tendons around the thumb may be swollen and painful, and the pain is felt at the base of the thumb just above the wrist. Bottle-fed and breast-fed parents can get it from the repetitive motions of holding their baby while feeding.
SOLUTION: Flossing the nerves is where we mobilize and stretch the nerves. It also increases blood flow to the nerve, which promotes healing and reduces pain.
A solution to neck pain
- SOLUTION: Check yours outside. As your shoulders round forward, your head moves into what I call a “chicken neck.” Here the chin moves forward. This lengthens and weakens the neck muscles, which can also lead to headache and jaw tension.
- So in class we look at alignment of posture. Let me digress briefly to remind you that there is no such thing as “perfect posture.” We want to align your head over your spine, put your ribs over your pelvis. Balance the pelvis, which is often either tilted too far forward or pulled down and back, move the hip bones back and balance the four corners of your feet. I call it “back up and stack”!
- Let’s continue the journey of releasing a tense neck. We also want to strengthen the upper back and relax and massage the neck muscles.
Yoga poses for upper back pain
For upper back pain relief, there are several different yoga poses that can help relieve it.
Generally, upper back mobility, proper breathing, twisting, and maintaining proper posture will help treat back pain.
Here are some of my favorite yoga poses to help relieve upper body pain.
Twist while sitting
Learn more about 360 Breathing in our blog: How Prenatal Yoga Can Help You Have an Easier Birth
Child’s pose with blanket between hips and torso
Beyond the needle
Why pain in the ribs can occur and how to get rid of it
Did you know that by the end of pregnancy, the circumference of the chest can increase up to 6 cm? Some of the chest pain may be the result of enlargement of the intercostal muscles (the tiny muscles between the ribs). Or being restricted by an ill-fitting, tight bra and, you guessed it, posture.
If your ribcage is bowed or your ribs are pushed forward, your ribcage cannot expand evenly when you breathe.
- Give up the tight bra!
- Add some lateral stretches and rotations to your daily movement practice!
Lateral stretching is a great way to open up and stretch the intercostal muscles (the small muscles between the ribs that help with breathing). Add a little chest rotation and we’ll help loosen tight upper back muscles!
- Practice 360 breathing, which will help you expand the entire circumference of your chest.
Shoulder pain and loss of posture
If you experience shoulder pain and a general feeling of losing your posture, you most likely need additional support while feeding.
- SOLUTION: Make sure you have good support while feeding. Is there anything to support the child and their arm? We don’t want to bring the breast to the baby, bring the baby to the breast!
Tense lumbar muscle
The psoas is a muscle that runs from T12, the 12th thoracic vertebra, down the spine above the edge of the pelvis and attaches to the femur (your thigh bone). This muscle, for many bodies, is tight and often compensates for the weakness of weak pelvic floor muscles, weak abdominal muscles, and weak hip flexors.
- Solution: One of my favorite ways to release the lower back muscle is passive 360-degree breathing and child’s pose.
I hope these yoga poses help those who are going through the early postpartum period. Even though we practice these poses in Baby and Me’s postpartum yoga classes, you can still reap the benefits just by setting aside 10 minutes a day for a quick and effective practice!
Book one of our Postnatal Yoga or Baby & Me Yoga classes by clicking the button below!
frequently asked questions
Is it normal to have joint pain during breastfeeding?
Hormonal changes can cause joint pain. However, when a student shares this complaint week after week in class, I always advise them to see their healthcare provider. This can be a sign of thyroid problems, which are very common after childbirth.
Can Yoga Help With Breastfeeding Pain?
As I mentioned in this article, there are many yoga poses that can help you deal with the many aches and pains a person experiences while nursing a baby.
What positions best reduce pain and discomfort during breastfeeding?
In the beginning, you may find it helpful to use a nursing pillow for support so you don’t slouch as you bring your breast to your baby. You want to bring your baby to your breast, so the support will help your posture and also reduce the strain of holding the baby’s weight throughout the feeding.
As your baby gets bigger and breastfeeding becomes established, you can try side feeding, which many new parents find can be more comfortable.
I also highly recommend working with a lactation consultant who can check your posture and the support you are using to feed your baby. You can also look for local La Leche League meetings where a lactation consultant can help you.