Breastfeeding is a skill to learn for both mother and baby, and often support is lacking. Finding a comfortable position for baby can take priority and cause a range of aches and pains for mum.
When a patient asks for advice for the ideal desk or car set up, there are guidelines we can follow. However, textbook ergonomics will not be perfect for the majority. Possibly more important than the height of a desk is how long you spend in any one position. You are likely to be more achey if you sit in the “perfect” position for 8 hours a day than if you move through a selection of “bad” positions every 20 minutes. The same is true for feeding.
It is not unusual for a newborn feed to last up to 40 minutes. Ideally this would be split evenly across both breasts, but this won’t always be the case. Even holding an ever-heavier baby in one position for 20 minutes can be taxing on the arm that supports them. It might also encourage mum to lean to one side, putting pressures through one side of the ribs, shoulder, and side of the neck. Asymmetries can also present for baby too.
Osteopathy for Breastfeeding Aches and Pains
Just like we can support a desk worker, we can support new parents. The positional demands of feeding leave muscular tensions, particularly across the upper body. Tightness across the upper back and shoulder can easily spread to the neck and cause headaches, but we can work to prevent these symptoms or manage existing ones. Manipulation (clicking) the thoracic spine can be especially relieving when you’ve been stuck in a slumped position all day or night.
Do mention at your appointment if you’re struggling to find a comfortable position at all. There are a number of different “holds” you can adopt, such as the cradle, cross cradle, or koala. Each might suit you and your baby at different points in your journey, so if they haven’t worked so far, you can always try again. Feeding laying on your side can take some getting used to, but can be a nice relaxed one when it does suit you.
Other Postpartum Demands
Beyond feeding, both parents will find themselves doing things they didn’t do before baby was born. Carrying your child on one side, or even using a sling or carrier can cause postural adaptations. As long as the body can cope with these changes, this is not a problem. We can examine the way you move to determine if any areas need help to move better, thus releasing pressure on another area.
Breastfeeding is a learning curve, and at the start it will likely be somewhat uncomfortable. But it should not be painful. A painful latch or pain developing throughout a feed could be a sign of an issue like tongue tie. Your paediatric osteopath can explain more about this and assess your baby if you are concerned. For young babies, conservative treatment to stretch the tight or short tissues is recommended as a first line, and we can refer back to your GP if appropriate.