Back hurting? Achy neck? Shoulder pain? Many women experience pain and discomfort while nursing or bottle feeding their newborn and older children. Why the pain all of the sudden?
Just like when you sit for a long period of time at a computer desk or on the couch (yeah, right, you're a mom, who has time to sit? just hear me out), your muscles feel stiff and achy from being in one position too long. Same thing happens when you repeatedly lean over to hold and feed your baby. You are sitting in the same position for anywhere from a few minutes to hours throughout your day. Especially if your baby falls asleep in your arms and you don't want to wake that sleeping little one.
Let's think about it, you've carried a baby for 9ish months and have all this excess weight on the front of your abdomen creating pressure through your spine, hips, upper back, and so on. Now, you're breastfeeding or bottle feeding your little one hunched over with weight being pulled into the front of your body yet again, yes, a different way, but none the less, being pulled forward. Those shoulders are being rounded forward, the neck is straining forward so that you make sure your child is latching or taking a bottle well and getting the nutrition she or he needs. You may be shrugging your shoulders up without realizing it putting more stress through the neck and shoulders. You may be sitting holding your child on one side more than the other creating an imbalance in the muscles leading to further aching and discomfort. As if recovering from childbirth and raising a new little one wasn't enough, let's add some more discomfort and pain to the mix!
Well, here are a few stretches and tips that have helped many women alleviate some of that pain and discomfort. These are also great for anyone who sits and works at a desk job most of their day or who spends a lot of time in the car. So, keep these in your back pocket for when you or your friends are working and having some neck and upper back pain.
1. Seated Cat/cow: While in sitting, place your hands behind your head and then round and extend your upper back like you're trying to fold into you belly button and then open your chest and take your mid chest to the sky. Hold 2-3 seconds in each position and repeat 10-15 repetitions.
2. Neck stretch: Sitting upright, lean your head to one side and gently place your hand over top of your head just above your ear. You should feel a gentle stretch through the side of your neck. Do the same to the opposite side. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat 3-4 times.
You can change this neck stretch up a little bit by playing with the angle of the head. You can look down towards your pocket while you stretch, or you can Look up towards the opposite corner of the room (ie. lean head to the right and gaze up to the left side of the room). You should feel the stretch change slightly with each variation.
3. Chest opener: Sitting upright, reach and clasp your hands overhead, now lean from your trunk to the right and stretch and then lean towards the left to stretch. After you've opened up a little through the spine, you can now clasp your hands behind your back and drop your hands towards your tailbone and roll your shoulders back and down. Hold 30-60 seconds and do 3-5 repetitions.
4. Upper Back Stretch: Sitting upright, reach forward, clasp hands together and reach forward with rounded back as far as possible. You should feel a stretch in the upper back and maybe in the shoulders. Hold 30-60 seconds and do 3-5 repetitions on each side.
5. Standing hip stretch: Standing upright, step one foot forward. In this split stance, tuck your tailbone under, square your hips so they are in one line pointing forward and slightly bend your back knee. You should feel a stretch in the front of your back leg. Hold for 30-60 seconds and switch sides. Do 3-5 repetitions each side.
Give these exercises a try and see how they feel and if you get any relief from the achy and tight feeling in your shoulders and back.