You’re now on maternity leave, have said sayonara to your desk job (at least for the moment) and have a gorgeous little bundle of joy in your arms. This is the dream and all your previous day-to-day aches and pains from work and pregnancy are supposed to immediately disappear. Right? Right….??
For some women, yes. For others, it is more of a “journey” back to normality. A normality that actually involves a bundle of joy, crying, feeding, changing, & sleeping. The sheer number of hours you will spend feeding a baby means that you are likely to be sitting longer than any desk job, as well as looking down to check on the little one, or simply admire them. Accompany this with the fact that you are also leaning forward to hold, change and move them around, and you my friend, have yourself a new version of the same issue!
So have a go, here are my 5 tips to counteract the “parenting posture”:
- Feeding Position
Sit in a chair, which is supportive – arm rests are ideal, as well as a high back support. Make sure to prop up with pillows and if it’s comfortable, raise the feet by resting on a stool or the couch. Baby led attachment is recommended, which means encouraging the baby to come to your breast, rather than you leaning forward towards the baby. Varying feeding positions of the baby is also good. See the links below for more on cradle, cross-cradle and football holds.
- Stretch anterior chest and neck muscles
A great way to do this is lying on rolled up towel or a foam roller
- Get yourself a long foam roller, or roll up towel very tight to approximately 10cm in thickness.
- Lie down with your spine lengthways along the towel from your low back to just below your neck. Ensure any extra length of the towel is moved out to the side near your neck. You can also add a small pillow under your head if it is more comfortable. If using a foam roller it is best to rest your head on the foam roller.
- Lie on towel/roller for up to 10 minutes daily and let gravity do it’s thing! Take time to breathe deep into the belly and for the shoulders to slowly relax down towards the floor.
- Strengthen muscles through your back and shoulders
One example is seated rows – using theraband/ cable machine / seated row machine
- Sitting tall with a natural arch in the low back and shoulders down and away from the ears, arms stretched out straight in front of you
- Keeping elbows straight, squeeze between shoulder blades and draw shoulders back
- Draw elbows in towards the side body
- Squeeze between shoulder blades a little more
- With control, extend the arms again. Repeat 8-10 times and repeat 3 sets.
- Promote trunk mobility
Moving in many directions is ideal – extending back, sidebending and rotating. Do these movements individually or all at once. Yoga and pilates are great for addressing this, but in the meantime, incorporating some simple rotations can help to ease tension in your thoracic and lumbar spine.
Seated spinal twists are a good starting exercise.
- Sit or stand with a broomstick (or the like) resting over your shoulders
- Twist to the right then the left
- Repeat 20 times each side
- As you get more comfortable you will be able to push your twists further
- Take it lying down
Try feeding lying on your side on a bed. What a way to make it relaxing for both of you! See the Australian Breastfeeding Association link below for more info!
Osteopaths can also help to alleviate this type of pain using soft tissue, stretching, manipulation and gentle balancing techniques. They may also prescribe more specific at home exercises tailored to your needs, and encourage clinical pilates or yoga.
Beyond Windsor and Beyond Hawthorn are both breastfeeding friendly clinics who support breastfeeding if your baby is hungry!
For further advice on breastfeeding positions visit:
- the Australian Breastfeeding Association at https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-info/early-days/breastfeeding-while-lying-down