Hays County Physical Therapy and Wellness

Top 5 Tips to Avoid Breastfeeding Pain

This week (August 1st – 7th) is national Breastfeeding Week. While each person has her own journey with breastfeeding, one thing we’ve all had in common is some type of pain and discomfort with the process. I’m not necessarily talking about the pain of actually breastfeeding (I recommend seeing and IBCLC for breastfeeding support itself), I’m talking about the positions, the neck pain, the back pain, the shoulder pain, and the other body aches that come with the repetitive motions that happen while breastfeeding.

Here are my top 5 tips as a physical therapist to avoid pain with breastfeeding.

  1. Use props and pillows for support: You may have heard this already…bring baby to breast, not breast to baby. Position yourself in sitting with feet on the floor, back straight, with ribcage stacked over hips, then use pillows or other supports on your lap to lay baby on top of and then bring baby to breast. My favorite breastfeeding support pillow is the My Brest Friend support pillow because it is more structured than some of the other pillows out there and it has a clip that can tighten allowing you to move about as baby becomes a bit more efficient at breastfeeding. You may also need an additional pillow underneath this device to prop baby up appropriately.

  2. Use multiple positions if possible: Using different breastfeeding positions can also help avoid the repetitive movements and staying in one position. Football hold where baby is tucked under your arm like a football can be a nice change of pace from the cross cradle position. If you’re having trouble getting baby to consistently latch, I recommend seeing a IBCLC (internationally board certified lactation consultant) for additional support, there are many great ones in the Austin and surrounding areas that I’d be happy to recommend, contact me here and we’ll get you some amazing resources. If you’re not local, I’ve got a network nationwide that I can connect with and get you resources as well. So click above to message me directly.

  3. Stretch and move neck and shoulders before and after nursing: Slow and controlled neck circles while sitting upright or standing can help keep the neck joints mobile and pain free while stretching the muscles around the neck area. You can also move through slow shoulder circles both directions in standing to keep the shoulders stretched and open. Try it 5-8 times each side a couple times a day.

  4. Stretch into your chest: Because you tend to get into a forward, hunched position while breastfeeding, it makes the muscles in your chest tight and sometimes painful. Then we hold our babies and do a lot of activities in that forward hunched posture which further exacerbates the problem, so do some stretches to help with this. You can get into your doorway. and put one arm up in a goal post position and put that arm against the door frame and step through. You should feel a nice stretch into your chest muscles. Hold for about 30-60 seconds and repeat on each side 2-3 times.

  5. Strengthen your back muscles: Since you’re spending so much time in the forward, rounded shoulder position, it makes for some stretched muscles in the back which can contribute to pain and discomfort. So, let’s start some strengthening, stand with your back against a wall with your feet about a foot in front of you, make sure your low back and shoulders are touching the wall. Now place your arms up like a goal post position and make sure your elbows, wrists and hands are all touching. You should have your low back, head, elbows, wrists and back of your hands touching the wall. Now raise your arms, keeping everything touching, above your head like you’re making and angel in the snow (or on the wall), then pull your arms back down, keeping everything touching, into the goal post position. Repeat 8-10 times. You should feel the muscles between your shoulder blades burning a bit meaning that those muscles are working!

So, you’ve got my top 5 tips for helping with breastfeeding pain and discomfort. Looking for more support? We’re here to help you. If these tips helped you, please share with other and consider talking to us more about how we can help you even more on your journey back to feeling like yourself again!

  • Dr. Nicole Laird, PT, DPT (Owner, Doctor of Physical Therapy)