What Are Postpartum Aches?
As a new mom, the last thing you’re thinking about is your posture, right? But what if you learned that proper posture and lifting mechanics could relieve the new‑found neck, shoulder and back pain (postpartum aches) that seems to have come along with the baby?
As physical therapists, we’ve noticed the trend among moms who have just given birth and during baby’s first year to experience persistent pain associated with all of the new activities of baby’s care: carrying, breastfeeding, bathing and even taking baby for a stroll.
Approximately 85% of these women who are receiving physical therapy complain of pain in their neck, shoulders and back, and many also say they’re experiencing more headaches than before.
How your posture changes
During pregnancy, your body’s posture changes as your ever-expanding belly puts more pressure on your spine and back. Your center of gravity shifts forward and your base of support is shifted as well. Postpartum, you may even notice your shoulders becoming more rounded from cradling the baby, especially during feedings, especially nursing. You may even notice that you carry your head and neck protruding in front of you, rather than in its relaxed and upright position atop your shoulders.
You may have yet to lose the extra pounds you put on during pregnancy, and if you’re nursing you’re carrying an extra 1½ to 2½ pounds in your breasts. This alone can cause upper chest pain and could well impinge on your nerves.
The good news is that with proper posture, and a few modifications in how you do your activities of daily living, you can relieve and even prevent most of these hot spots from ever getting achy or strained.
Follow these tips to use your body to its best advantage and get rid of those baby care aches once and for all.
Also read: Nurturing Your Postpartum Body
The proper posture for breastfeeding (see illustration above) requires a support pillow under your baby so that the strain of her weight is taken off of your arms and shoulders. Make sure your neck is in its natural position and avoid looking down for long periods of time (we know that’s hard to do, babies are so cute!)
When it comes to diapering, avoid too much bending as this puts too much stress on your back. Unless you have a changing table tall enough that you don’t have to bend over, it’s better to kneel on the floor to change your little one.
Avoid carrying your baby on your hip—this is a guaranteed move that will bring on a back ache, and even lead to leg pain as well. Instead, cradle your child centered in your upper body using the strength of your arms, shoulders and back together to hold his weight.
Unless you can kneel comfortably at the tub without bending over, try bathing your baby in the kitchen sink until she can sit up on her own. Better yet, check out many of the new infant bathtubs meant to fit into a standard sink and cradle baby at a comfortable height.