Neck Pain and Breastfeeding - A Never-Ending Story
While breastfeeding is a beautiful and essential part of motherhood, neck pain from breastfeeding is a very common challenge. It is often called “nursing mother’s neck”, and can cause burning, numbness, and tingling and can even lead to headaches. Thus, the strain and discomfort of breastfeeding can indeed become a never-ending story if not addressed properly.
Here, we will explore the connection between neck pain and breastfeeding. From identifying its causes to offering solutions, we will discuss all that is needed to know about breastfeeding and neck pain.
Can breastfeeding cause neck pain?
No, breastfeeding is not the direct cause of neck pain. Rather, neck pain from breastfeeding is due to improper positioning and techniques used when breastfeeding that leads to discomfort and pain. When a mother breastfeeds her child, she will often spend extended periods sitting and with her neck flexed forward, which can strain the neck and shoulders. The extra weight of the baby’s head combined with the “nursing mother’s neck” can lead to muscle tension and discomfort in the neck area.
Main causes of neck pain while breastfeeding
While breastfeeding is not the direct cause of neck pain and muscle tension, there are many other causes that contribute to it. The most common ones are,
Improper position is one of the primary causes of neck pain during breastfeeding. Suppose the nursing baby is not properly aligned with the mother’s body. In that case, it forces her to twist and crane in order to feed the baby properly. The constant strain and unnatural positioning can result in neck pain over time.
Another cause for breastfeeding neck pain is sitting for long periods with hunched shoulders and a bent neck. This poor posture can lead to muscle fatigue and discomfort. Many breastfeeding mothers do not pay attention to their posture when nursing their child, which can increase the chances of neck pain.
Overuse if one side
Mothers may sometimes unconsciously favor one breast over the other. This habit leads to an uneven distribution of weight and excessive strain on the neck and shoulders. It thus results in discomfort or pain on one side.
Stress and tension
The overall demands of taking care of a newborn can be stressful. It is not unheard of for this stress to manifest physically, leading to neck and shoulder tension. Trying to nurse your baby with this pain already in tow can only lead to more severe neck pain from breastfeeding.
Pain-free breastfeeding techniques
While neck pain and breastfeedingseem to be inextricably linked, it doesn't have to be that way! Breastfeeding your newborn can be a comfortable and pain-free experience if you adopt proper feeding techniques and adjust your body as needed. Here are some tips to help you breastfeed without experiencing neck pain.
Before you start breastfeeding:
- Make sure your baby is positioned correctly.
- Use a pillow or a cushion to bring your baby up to breast level without making your newborn uncomfortable.
- Remember to keep your baby’s head, shoulders, and hips aligned in a straight line.
This reduces the need to twist or crane your neck.
Supportive chairs and Pillows
Using a comfortable and supportive chair with backrests and armrests is a great way to avoid neck pains while breastfeeding. For good measure, you can also add comfy pillows for lumbar and neck support, which can help you maintain good posture.
To prevent overuse of only one side, switch breasts at every feeding session. This technique will distribute the load more evenly and reduce the risk of neck pain on one side.
Nursing In Different Positions
There's no written rule that you should always be sitting when nursing your child. Try experimenting with different breastfeeding positions such as the cradle-hold, football hold, or side-lying position. Find out what would be best for you and minimize the strain on your neck, back, and shoulders.
Try to stay as relaxed as possible when breastfeeding- it does not have to be a stressful activity. Do deep breathing exercises and gentle neck and shoulder massages to release the tension. This technique can work wonders on breastfeeding neck pains and headaches.
Use A Breastfeeding Pillow
A breastfeeding pillow is a great investment to make before giving birth to your baby. It can provide additional support for your baby and help maintain a good breastfeeding position. Thus, this greatly reduces the strain on your neck while nursing your baby.
Neck pain relief
If you already suffer from breastfeeding neck pain, look no further. Here are some great ways to reduce the neck and shoulder pain from nursing your child.
Massages and stretches can work wonders for breastfeeding mothers experiencing neck pain. Gentle neck and shoulder massages can help relax tense muscles. You can do it yourself or ask for help from a partner or professional massage therapist.
Doing a neck stretch is not only great for releasing tension, but it also mobilizes the muscles, which helps prevent tension in the future. You can even implement neck stretches during your feeding sessions to prevent breastfeeding neck pains altogether.
Hot and cold therapy
Another soothing way to relieve neck pain from breastfeeding is to apply a warm compress or take a warm shower to relax tight muscles. If you have been experiencing inflammation or severe pain, then apply an ice pack for almost instant relief.
A temporary solution for neck pain from breastfeeding is to take over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. However, you must consult with a doctor or lactation consultant before taking any medication to see if it would impact your breast milk.
If your breastfeeding neck pain persists, consider setting an appointment with a licensed physical therapist. They can provide exercises and techniques to strengthen and improve the flexibility of your neck and shoulder muscles.
Chiropractic care, such as manual adjustments, soft tissue work, and dry needling, is very beneficial for breastfeeding mothers experiencing neck pain.
Manual adjustments can help realign misaligned muscles. Thus, it ensures the neck and shoulders are in proper alignment. Soft tissue work reduces muscle pain and inflammation by using a metal device to break up scar tissue. This helps restore blood and oxygen flow to the muscles. Finally, the dry needling treatment is ideal for neck and upper body pain. It works to relieve knots and trigger points that form in a mother’s body due to stress or breastfeeding tension.
Rest and self-care
Sometimes, all you need to relieve breastfeeding neck pain is some good rest. Feel free to take breaks when you need them. Rest and self-care are crucial during the early months of motherhood.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful experience for both the mother and the baby. Still, it does come with its pains and challenges. But, with the proper techniques and precautions, it would not hinder your life so much. Nursing mothers need to prioritize their comfort and well-being during this precious time. Thus, by getting rid of neck pain from breastfeeding, you can ensure that there will only be joy and contentment when nursing your child.