Guide to Neck, Shoulder and Back Pain with Breastfeeding

Image of mom bending over her baby to breastfeed

Breastfeeding 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 near Mason, Ohio 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

Image of a mother sitting in a chair that is slightly reclined so her head can rest on the pillow behind her neck while feeding her baby. The mom is bringing the baby to her breast.

First, 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 offer postpartum physical therapy and fitness services in Mason, Ohio, doing just this.

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For more pregnancy and postpartum info, check out our other maternal mental health resources in Cincinnati, Ohio or our list of pregnancy and postpartum resources in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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.