Hold Your Baby and Let Go of These Rules

The following guest post was generously created by Brittany Balke, who I bonded with initially over lack of sleep in motherhood and chronic pain on instagram. We share a background in the field of physical therapy and share a similar perspective on health and wellness, so if you enjoy my content, you will value hers as well. Brittany is an experienced mom who helps others let go of the guilt and focus on their wellness according to their values, not what society or someone else is telling us.

Few things turn your world upside down like becoming a parent, whether for the first time or the umpteenth time.

Good health becomes more valuable than ever as you expend your energy between babies and big kids and everything else in your life. And yet, the time and mental energy you have for taking care of yourself is also more limited than ever!

So I’m not here today to add rules to your list. In fact, I’d actually like to tell you about three health rules that you can just drop ASAP. I’ve listed a few guidelines for what you might do instead, but they are exactly that: guidelines.

Rule #1

“There are good foods and there are bad foods.”

We can also replace the words “good” and “bad” with words like “healthy” and “junk” or “clean” and “garbage” (all vocabulary I’ve heard in real life). This is called moralizing of food choices, and it can pack some hefty unintended consequences. There’s benefit to changing to a mindset that food is just food, and there are multiple ways it can nourish us, even if it is not the most nutritious option. Food can and does nourish us nutritionally, but it can also nourish us socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

This is called moralizing of food choices, and it can pack some hefty unintended consequences

Typically, people will label food as “bad” or “junk” because it is perceived as being less nutritious. I say “perceived” rather than “is” because sometimes food moralizing comes with unsound claims about nutrition. For example, carbohydrates are typically demonized; however, they are highly important for multiple functions of the body, not the least of which is mood and energy regulation. Chemicals are another misunderstood component of food, particularly because the definition of “chemicals” isn’t consistent among different claims. If you want to learn the basics of nutrition needs, ChooseMyPlate.gov is a great place to start. If you need more personalized help, a registered dietitian can help you best address your individual needs while honoring science and research evidence.

“Okay that’s fine, but what happens when I emotionally eat this whole box of cookies because I’ve decided they’re no longer bad?” The funny thing about that is restriction—such as occurs when we moralize foods as bad or junky—is more likely to lead to that binge than a more mindful approach. It’s also more often associated with negative self talk: “I ate the garbage food, therefore, I’m gross.” Now of course, that’s not true: eating “bad“ foods doesn’t make you “gross“ any more than eating “good” foods makes you a Nobel Peace Prize candidate. But this is where our minds tend to wander the moment we label our foods this way, and this can also contribute to overconsumption. The book Intuitive Eating and its workbook explain this in further detail.

Now, with that said, I DO understand the importance of not letting social or emotional nourishment overshadow your nutritional needs. Instead of seeing food as good and bad, you can begin to mindfully notice what kind of nourishment you’re seeking and receiving. Spend a couple or a few days recording what you ate and why. (The I Ate app is an awesome way to do this. It’s pre-set with prompts about your emotions and hunger and other circumstances). How hungry were you? How did you feel before and after you ate? If you’re consistently turning to food for emotional or social nourishment and ignoring the nutrition component, that information can help you make more choices to nourish those areas of your life with things other than food.

Continue reading “Hold Your Baby and Let Go of These Rules”

Guide to Neck, Shoulder and Back Pain with Breastfeeding

 

1Breastfeeding has so many benefits for you and your baby, but it is demanding, mentally, physically, and emotionally. In case you need to hear it, you matter too! Taking care of your baby begins with taking care of you. 

Movement can be a great way to meet some of your physical and mental needs throughout the day. Breastfeeding requires a lot of sitting and forward posture, at least early on. While there is no one perfect posture, variety of postures and movement are key. For a breastfeeding momma, that will mean spending non-feeding time getting out of sitting and rounded positions and maybe even trying a variety of positions if a particular one is becoming painful. 

If you are having difficulty with breastfeeding, I highly recommend getting help from a lactation specialist. See my post on breastfeeding resources for more info.  

If you are having neck, back or shoulder pain during or after feedings, here are a few things to get you started:

Positioning, Support, and Posture

2First, let’s address the positions that you are suddenly spending a lot of time in. 

One of the best pieces of advice [that I did not initially listen to] was to “bring the baby to your breast and not your breast to your baby”. You can start with pillow support to raise the baby up off of your lap without requiring much effort from you. Here is my favorite pillow because you can strap it to you and be “hands-fee”. However, you do not need a fancy pillow, you can start with the pillows you have.

“bring the baby to your breast and not your breast to your baby” – my lactation consultant

Another thing that can be helpful is a supportive chair. I would recommend finding a seat with just enough lumbar support to keep your back supported in a comfortable, neutral position. I personally enjoy a higher backed, reclining chair because they make it so much easier to rest your head and to bring the baby to you using gravity, like we discussed above. 

Check your posture, is there tension in your jaw, shoulders and neck? Are you hunched over your baby? Rest into your chair/supporting surface. The early days of feeding can be difficult, so implement this advice as you can, however it works for you. 

The last thing would be to change up your feeding postures. If a certain position is not serving you or your baby, try another. Kellymom has great resources on this. If you are having pain in upright feeding positions, sidelying or reclined feeding may offer some relief, especially if you are struggling with oversupply. The video below shows safe sidelying feeding. 

 

After you have addressed feeding postures, here are some movements to help you feel great. 

When you have clearance for these types of movements from your medical provider, you can begin to gently connect with your body in different ways. Some providers are okay with clients beginning posture, deep breathing, and sidelying rotation stretch exercises around 2-4 weeks after a vaginal birth. If you have had a C-section, sometimes, you may take a little more time to heal and begin these closer to 2-6 weeks with clearance. The other exercises can typically be started after you have had your 6 week clearance visit. At the end of the day, you know your body best; these exercises should feel like a gentle stretch and should not be painful. Stick with it, it takes time to make changes. Exercises below should not be painful. If you continue having pain, see a physical therapist that focuses on helping postpartum clients. We see clients in parts of Greater Cincinnati, doing just this.

 

 

 

 

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For more pregnancy and postpartum info, check out our other maternal mental health resources or our resources for pregnant and postpartum moms.

Let us know how changing position and adding movement into your day makes you feel.

*Note: See our terms of use. The information above does not constitute medical advice and is not a substitute for working with a medical professional. You choose to use the content at your own risk and are responsible for obtaining medical clearance from your own qualified medical provider. Vibrant Physical Therapy and Wellness, LLC does not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided and claims no responsibility for losses or damages that may arise out of your use or misuse of the content provided. Personal concerns about medical conditions should be discussed and addressed immediately with your own licensed healthcare provider.

Breastfeeding Resources

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and I am celebrating by sharing some great resources.

First, I just want to acknowledge that breastfeeding is hard. It almost broke me. Motherhood is tough, but trust me, you are tough too. You have heard it before, but raising kids takes a village – that village is not just for the kids, it is for mom too. In this day and age (especially in a pandemic), our support is now virtual in addition to in-person. So here are some virtual breastfeeding resources.

Breastfeeding and COVID-19

If you are looking for resources on breastfeeding and COVID-19, Evidence Based Birth is doing a great job dismantling fear and replacing it with information. In their August 3rd, 2020 update, Evidence Based Birth reviews the support for breastfeeding with proper hygiene that is now supported by the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics).

Practical, Evidence Based Breastfeeding

If you are looking for a great all-around breastfeeding source, Kellymom is my go-to. There are so many topics covered here. One practical tip that helped from Kellymom was providing Vitamin D to my daughter through my breastmilk. Not only did this make my life easier, but it helped my mental health as vitamin D deficiencies can be associated with depression.

Virtual Support Groups

Personally, I lucked out and found an amazing, free breastfeeding support group at my local hospital. Unfortunately, many in-person support groups like Baby Cafe and La Leche League are postponed, but that doesn’t mean the support is postponed too! There are many local and national support groups that can be found online. If you are in the Cincinnati area, I have found SW Ohio Breastfeeding Moms to be a very supportive group.

One-on-one Lactation Support

General support can be so helpful, but sometimes you really need hands-on or virtual eyes-on support. There are varying levels of training for providers and my understanding is that the IBCLC is usually the most in-depth and hands-on training. If you are local to Cincinnati or Mason, Ohio and need help finding lactation support, contact me for local resources.

Optimizing Movement with Breastfeeding

See the video below for Alex’s favorite stretch or see our more recent post Guide to Neck, Shoulder and Back Pain with Breastfeeding for some tips on movement and positioning. Working with a physical therapist knowledgeable to women’s health can also help support you in your breastfeeding journey and keep you moving in ways that bring you joy and address your pain. If you are local to Cincinnati, contact us to start your journey to self care. If you want to stay up-to-date on services we offer in the community, sign up for our email list below.

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Happy breastfeeding! What are your go-to resources?

*Note: See our terms of use. The information above does not constitute medical advice and is not a substitute for working with a medical professional. You choose to use the content at your own risk and are responsible for obtaining medical clearance from your own qualified medical provider. Vibrant Physical Therapy and Wellness, LLC does not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided and claims no responsibility for losses or damages that may arise out of your use or misuse of the content provided. Personal concerns about medical conditions should be discussed and addressed immediately with your own licensed healthcare provider.