I am definitely an advocate for breastfeeding. And yet, despite all the benefits that come from it (for both baby and mom!), I have noticed one drawback. It’s something I like to call the “Bad Nursing Posture Syndrome” (BNPS – my very “technical” made-up term). During those first few months after my little C was born, I found myself consistently hunched over, neck strained, and about as far from my ideal posture as possible.
Luckily, there are some easy ways to combat it!
These three stretches are useful for any parent who needs a pick-me-up from all that caressing, holding, and carrying precious cargo. Each stretch focuses on opening the heart, stretching those tight muscles that keep us hunched over, and strengthening the spine. Best of all, you can do all three in about three minutes. (In other words, no excuses!)
Find an empty space on a wall. Place one hand on the wall. Slowly turn your body, keeping your palm on the wall, until your arms are behind you or you feel a stretch in your pectoral muscles. Only go as far as feels comfortable. Hold for 30 seconds. When you are done, shake your arms out and repeat on the other side.
Reverse Arm Stretch
Clasp your hands behind your back, interlocking your fingers. Keeping your arms straight, slowly raise your hands until you feel a nice stretch. You can do this stretch standing or you can bend over with your legs wide to increase the stretch and release the back. Hold for 30 seconds and then see if you can go a little further and hold again.
Upward Facing Dog
1. Lie prone (on your stomach) on the floor. Stretch your legs back, with the tops of your feet on the floor. Bend your elbows and spread your palms on the floor beside your waist so that your forearms are relatively perpendicular to the floor.
2. Inhale and press your inner hands firmly into the floor and slightly back, as if you were trying to push yourself forward along the floor. Then straighten your arms and simultaneously lift your torso up and your legs a few inches off the floor on an inhalation.
3. Press the tailbone toward the pubis and lift the pubis toward the navel.
4. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Look straight ahead or tip the head back slightly, but take care not to compress the back of the neck.
5. Hold this position anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily.
Some tips while feeding
It’s also important to “check in” every now and then while nursing. I think it’s perfectly natural to want to enclose around your beautiful baby. And I don’t think you have to “sit up straight” while nursing. But even as your feel yourself yearning down toward your child, here are a few tips to keep your body happy:
- Even if you are curving over your child, try not to collapse into a passive heavy posture. Keep your core active and engaged.
- Imagine your spine free and almost liquid-like as you hug your child.
- Take deep breaths and expand your ribs.
- Sit on your “sitz bones” (ischial tuberosities) rather than tucking your tailbone under as this creates tension in the lower back.
- Always remember to bring your baby to you rather than straining your body to the baby. (Using a nursing pillow like this or other small pillows may be useful.)
Enjoy these moments of connecting and being with your child. It really does go so fast!
Looking for other tips to live a pain free life? Be sure to check out my book Pain Free: 60 exercises for pain-free living.