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Women's Health

Posture and Breastfeeding: Ensuring Comfort and Health for Mom and Baby

May 24th, 2024 | 5 min. read

Posture and Breastfeeding: Ensuring Comfort and Health for Mom and Baby
Becca Lee

Becca Lee

Licensed Physical Therapist, PT, DPT // Clinical Director, EW Motion Therapy Trussville // EW Yoga Instructor // EW Motion Therapy Trussville

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Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural process, but it has challenges. One often overlooked aspect is the mother's posture during breastfeeding. New moms are nursing up to 8 hours a day, and proper posture can significantly impact both the mother's comfort and the baby's ability to latch correctly. In this guide, we'll explore why good posture is essential during breastfeeding, the negative effects of poor posture, simple strategies for maintaining good posture, and how physical therapy can help enhance posture for breastfeeding mothers. 


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The importance of good posture while breastfeeding


Why posture matters

Before we discuss why posture matters for breastfeeding, let’s review what posture is. Posture refers to how the body holds itself while standing, sitting, or lying down. It involves the alignment of the spine, head, and limbs in relation to each other and the body's center of gravity. Good posture maintains the spine's natural curves, reduces strain on muscles and ligaments, and supports efficient movement and balance. Poor posture for extended periods of time can lead to musculoskeletal problems, pain, and reduced functionality.


Good posture during breastfeeding is crucial for several reasons. First, it ensures that the baby can latch onto the breast correctly, which is essential for effective feeding. Proper latch prevents issues such as nipple pain and incomplete milk transfer. However, if you address postural issues during breastfeeding and your baby still has difficulty latching, a lactation consultant is an excellent resource to ensure an effective latch.


Secondly, good posture can help prevent the physical discomforts that many breastfeeding mothers experience, such as back, neck, and shoulder pain. Maintaining a proper alignment reduces muscle fatigue and strain, making the breastfeeding experience more comfortable and enjoyable for both mother and child. 


Benefits beyond comfort

Beyond comfort, correct posture plays a vital role in the health of the musculoskeletal system. It helps evenly distribute the strain of breastfeeding across the body, reducing the risk of developing musculoskeletal imbalances or exacerbating existing issues. Good posture also promotes better circulation and breathing, enhancing overall health and well-being during what can be a physically demanding period for new mothers.


The impact of poor posture when breastfeeding


Physical complications

Poor posture for long periods of time during breastfeeding can lead to several physical complications. The most common are musculoskeletal pains in the neck, shoulders, and back. Slouching or hunching over can strain these areas, leading to chronic pain and discomfort, which can persist even after the breastfeeding period has ended.


Long-term health issues

Continuously poor posture can contribute to long-term health issues such as chronic back pain, neck pain, and even migraines. It can also lead to poor alignment and imbalances that may require medical or therapeutic intervention to correct later on. Additionally, poor posture can affect the mother's overall energy levels and mood, potentially impacting her mental health.


Easy strategies to improve posture during breastfeeding


Tips for home practice

Maintaining good posture while breastfeeding isn't just about sitting up straight; it's about creating an environment that supports the mother's body. Here are some easy strategies that can be practiced at home:

  1. Use supportive seating: Choose a comfortable chair with back support. Pillows or cushions can support your back and arms, reducing muscle strain. Additionally, nursing pillows can help keep the baby in an optimal position for latching. Here’s one of our favorites, MyBrestFriend.
  2. Switch sides regularly: Alternating the side on which you breastfeed promotes even milk production and helps prevent muscle imbalances caused by favoring one side. You can also try a side-lying position on the bed while nursing 
  3. Stay mindful: Be aware of your body's position during breastfeeding. Avoid leaning forward or slouching. Instead, bring the baby to your breast, not the breast to your baby. Keep your head up and try to look straight ahead to avoid straining your neck.


Exercises to improve posture

Simple exercises can also help strengthen the muscles used to maintain good posture. These might include:

  1. Doorway stretch: This exercise helps stretch muscles in the chest and shoulder.
  2. Neck stretches: Regular stretching can alleviate neck tension and promote better posture. Try chin tucks to strengthen the deep cervical flexors.
  3. Core exercises: A strong core supports the entire body and reduces the burden on the back and shoulders during breastfeeding. Try an exercise like bird dogs to improve stability.
  4. Wall slides: To improve range of motion and mobility.


How physical therapy promotes better posture

Physical therapy can be a fantastic resource for breastfeeding mothers struggling with posture-related issues. A physical therapist can assess a mother's posture, identify specific problem areas, and develop a personalized treatment plan. This plan may include exercises to strengthen weak muscles, stretches to increase flexibility, and hands-on techniques to mobilize soft tissue, improve muscle function, and reduce pain.


Preventative and rehabilitative benefits

Physical therapy offers both preventive and rehabilitative benefits. It can help a mother maintain good posture, preventing pain and musculoskeletal issues. It can also address pain or dysfunction that has already arisen from poor breastfeeding posture, helping to restore function and comfort.


Maintaining good posture during breastfeeding is essential for the health and comfort of both mother and baby. It prevents physical discomfort and long-term musculoskeletal problems while ensuring that the breastfeeding process is as effective and enjoyable as possible. Through mindful practices at home and the supportive care of physical therapy, breastfeeding mothers can achieve better posture, leading to a healthier, more comfortable breastfeeding journey. Every mother's situation is unique, and what works best can vary. Consulting with a healthcare provider or a physical therapist can provide tailored advice and support tailored to individual needs. Our women’s health team at EW Motion Therapy considers it a privilege to help our new moms reduce pain, address muscle imbalances, and recover postpartum. To learn more about how physical therapy can address your needs, click the button below to download our answers to 20 frequently asked questions.


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