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Unexpected Breastfeeding Pain?

Bre Berthold was elated to now be a mother of two. She didn’t have any major concerns about breastfeeding her second child because she had breastfed her first child, Maxwell, with no trouble or concerns. But when Bre Berthold’s second child, Rose, was about four months old, Bre started to experience aching, burning and stabbing pain in her left wrist while nursing. Sometimes it was so severe she’d have to shake her wrist aggressively to make it stop. But Bre soldiered on, breastfeeding her daughter until she was one year old.

Ignoring the pain came at a cost. Almost a year and multiple medical appointments later, Bre was still searching for a solution for her pain that would not go away. “I struggle immensely with working out, picking up my kids, driving properly—basically, anything that involves twisting the wrist, I have a hard time doing.”

 According to Teresa Pitman, co-author of Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding, wrist, neck, shoulder, and upper back pain while breastfeeding or bottle feeding is common abut can be avoided.   “A baby is likely to breastfeed up to 12 times a day, with each session lasting 20 to 40 minutes, so you can see that in some positions it can put a lot of strain on the mother.”

This is a type of pain that is often unexpected for new mothers, but they often experience aching hands, wrists, shoulders, necks and upper back.  It is also common for new moms to experience carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis.

If you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding your child and experiencing pain of any kind – DO NOT ignore this warning sign from your body. Your conditions may worsen and stick around for longer than you’d think.

Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, try these tips to help minimize and prevent pain during and after feeding.

Posture, Posture, Posture:

  • Pay attention to your posture and positioning while feeding. Are you curving your hand and wrist around your baby to support and cuddle him/her? Are you straining your neck to provide comfort for the baby? Look for ways to support your infant that don’t involve contorting your body.
  • Take a few deep breaths to fill the lungs and expand the ribcage help to prevent slouching and can help relax tense muscles.
  • Breastfeed lying down, continuing to pay attention to wrist position.
  • Some say that the cross cradle hold (particularly long-term use) may cause or aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome, as baby’s weight is often supported by the hand in this positioning.
  • Try to maintain a neutral wrist-position (neither flexed or extended) throughout the feeding and throughout your daily activities.
  • When feeding, remember you should always bring the baby up to you, not yourself down to the baby.

Support Yourself:

  • Pillows and bolsters are your new best friends.  There are special pillows made for feeding your baby that are typically u-shaped.  You will likely need to use several pillows and some trial and error to bring the baby up to a comfortable height for feeding but once you figure it out, your pain will start to diminish.
  • If you suffer from arm, neck, or back pain, during breastfeeding or bottle feeding but would like to be more mobile, a baby sling can be a great investment, as they offer support of the baby’s weight and are comfortable to use when out and about.

Gear Up:

  • Choosing a well-fitting maternity or nursing bra will offer you additional support to the breasts and to the back during the nursing stage. A professional fitting can help to make sure that you buy the best shape, size, and design for your needs.
  • Use a specially designed wrist brace to keep your wrist in the neutral position while breastfeeding. Sleeping with the brace on can be very helpful as well.
  • Avoid the comfy couch- try a more firm chair or glider to ensure less pain-inducing positions while feeding. The investment is definitely worth the reward.

Get Some Me Time:

  • Take a moment to yourself each day to regularly stretch out your neck and back musculature after feeding to prevent neck and upper back tightness.
  • Make sure to take frequent short breaks (about 30 seconds) while breastfeeding or bottle feeding to move your arms and wrists to prevent pain in these areas.
  • Place hot packs around neck and upper back for about 20 minutes at a time.
  • Showering or taking a bath with warm water is highly recommended (lucky for you!) to relieve pain and stiffness.
  • Massage your neck, shoulders, and upper back where they are sore- you can do this on your own, with help from a family member or friend, or with the assistance of a professional, like Kelly at Lilly Physical Therapy.

These tips should go a long way in taking a lot of stress off the arms, neck, back, and wrists and should give you time to focus on what’s really important: bonding with your brand new little one!

Lilly Physical Therapy Can Help!

 We work with new mothers and anyone suffering from pain in their neck, shoulders, back, and wrists.  We deliver fast results and use cutting-edge technology so you feel better faster!  Call us today at (425) 224-2476 to set up your first appointment!