Postural strain and breast pain and what you can do about it!

Breastfeeding may be natural, but it is not always easy and sometimes it can hurt! In this instance, I’m not talking about latch pain (which we will discuss in newsletter #3 – stay tuned!), but the postural strain that some women experience when breastfeeding and the pain of blocked ducts. One of the most rewarding areas of my osteopathic practice is helping mum and bubs on their way to a successful breastfeeding experience. As an Osteopath and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), I use both bodywork and evidence-based lactation care to support mum and bubs.

Whilst mums are breastfeeding, it can be very common for them to experience postural strain and pain in the mid to upper spine. No matter which nursing holds you use, positioning and posture of your body is very important in preventing unwanted neck, shoulder and back pain. Finding a comfortable breastfeeding posture, where there is no neck strain, the shoulders are relaxed, and the whole body is supported, that is also sustainable for a long period of time, will assist effective, pain-free breastfeeding. Good breastfeeding posture can also have a beneficial effect on milk supply and let-down by promoting better blood flow to and from the breast, a healthy nerve supply and lymphatic drainage to the breast area.

Since all mums’ bodies are different, there is no one posture that will fit everyone’s needs. In addition, what is a comfortable, sustainable feeding position for you will change and evolve over the period of time you breastfeed for. My top 5 tips to help you find a comfortable position are:

  1. A well-fitting, supportive chair will support your back and prevent you from slouching, which stresses your joints, muscles and ligaments, collapses the chest, rounds the shoulders and causes PAIN! Add a lumbar support or rolled towel behind the small of your back if the chair doesn’t provide enough support.
  2. Rest your feet on the floor. If you cannot reach, use a footrest. This avoids strain to the lower back.
  3. Strategically placed pillows can be a new mum’s best friend. They can help to support the baby’s weight at the right height to relieve strain on your upper back and arms. One or more pillows can also help to support your whole body if you feed reclining or side-lying in bed.
  4. Avoid bringing your breast down to the baby, as this rounds the upper back and shoulders, again leading to PAIN. Try bringing the baby to the breast instead and let your body support their weight.
  5. Try some light exercise to stretch tired, over-worked muscles. No matter how tired you feel, a little light exercise will make you feel better and help you to reap the benefits of movement.

The most important thing is to not ignore any minor aches and pains in your neck, back and shoulders. Pain is a sign that something needs changing. Osteopathic treatment can help to restore the normal mechanics of the spine, optimising the body for the new demands that come with being a mum.

Another breastfeeding pain that has been estimated to affect two-thirds of women will experience blocked milk ducts at some time during their breastfeeding journey. At times, if not treated early, this can result in inflammation of the breast, which may lead to mastitis. Blocked ducts can be treated using a modality called therapeutic ultrasound, a painless technology we use in the clinic which can help to break up blockages and encourage normal milk flow. I use Canadian breastfeeding expert, Dr Jack Newman’s, protocol and patients find it gentle and effective. By addressing posture and restoring the normal mechanics of the spine, osteopathic treatment can also promote better blood flow to and from the breast, a healthy nerve supply and lymphatic drainage to the breast area.