Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby, but it can take a toll on your back and neck. Once active women may find themselves sitting for hours each day, mom’s neck can feel sore from craning it to meet baby’s gaze, and a stiff low back is a common result from hunching over to find the perfect nursing position—and that’s all on top of the exhaustion that comes with being a new mom. SpineUniverse reached out to Joshua M. Ammerman, MD for his thoughts on how nursing mothers can keep a healthy spine while breastfeeding.
Dr. Ammerman: Reclining during feeding can permit you to gain a more comfortable neck position while meeting your baby's gaze. Alternatively, a circumferential neck pillow (like an air travel pillow) can give you some support if your baby feeds best upright.
Q: Are there any breastfeeding positions that tend to be less taxing on your back and neck?
Dr. Ammerman: Reclining 20 to 30 degrees is best. Alternatively, walking during feeding may put less stress on your back.
Q: During middle of the night feedings, is it best to stay in bed to nurse or sit down in a glider or chair?
Dr. Ammerman: Much of this decision relates to mom's level of fatigue, which can be immense with a new baby. That said, a glider or recliner permits better neck support than sitting in bed. If you prefer to sit in bed, a "husband pillow" can provide lumbar support for moms with back pain.
Q: Are there any items that breastfeeding moms should invest in to make their nursing experience more enjoyable?
Dr. Ammerman: Wrap-around pillows can help to free mom's hands, and the lumbar pillow can provide back pain relief via postural correction when sitting for long periods of time.
Q: Sometimes, nursing sessions can last upwards of an hour—that means moms are spending a great portion of your day sitting. Any quick stretches that busy moms can do to help undo that damage?
Dr. Ammerman: The Williams flexion exercises are a great quick daily option for keeping your back strong and pain away. Below is a brief look at these exercises:
Women who delivered via C-section may need to modify these exercises with their doctor’s approval to prevent abdominal strain.
Q: Do you have any other advice for new moms to protect their back and neck?
Dr. Ammerman: Regardless if you’re breastfeeding, lumbar support is key for protecting your back when you’re a new mother. Bending over a high crib bar or leaning way into the middle of a car to clip in a car seat can be murder on your back. Ask for an assist from your significant other whenever possible. When lifting, make every effort to do so with a straight back and bend with the knees and hips.