breastfeeding

This one thing may delay you feeling "normal" again after baby.

After having a baby there is all the talk about getting back to normal.

What is normal really?

Why is it so important to get back to anyway?

After having two children and working with countless new moms I'm here to tell you,

You're never going to normal again, and it's okay!

Normal is over rated.

Normal can be boring.

You, mama, are anything but over rated and boring.

You are wonderfully unique!

Let's embrace your non-normalcy.

If what you seek; however is feeling connected and in control of your body after having your baby, then that is a WHOLE other story.

Pregnancy and birth can be a joyous, unpredictable, whirlwind of a time. Your body changes so much that it can be hard for your systems to keep up.

Leaving you feeling disconnected and out of control of basic functions, like holding in pee when you sneeze.

I get it if that is what you mean by normal.

Of course you want to feel in control of you body again.

And over the next year after baby is born your body will naturally find it's way through healing and for the most part you'll feel normal.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for every mom, for various reasons.

Birth injury, medical interventions, csection, episiotomy, epiderals, long labors and pushing, really quick labors, these different factors play a role in how long your body will heal.

Not to mention all your past injuries and habits.

But the one thing that I've seen as a common thread despite the type of birth, injuries etc is breastfeeding.

After delivery your estrogen levels plummet. Then remain low if you breastfeed.

Why does this matter?

Estrogen plays a large role is tissue function, especially in your nether regions.

Just think a mini menopause after delivery, dry, thin, weak, itchy vagina (though really your vulva but you get the idea).

When this happens the pelvic floor doesn't function 100%.

And this can last the whole time you breastfeed.

I experienced it with my daughter. I breastfeed for 2 years, about 3-4 months after stopping, I felt like a different woman.

Now, I'm not telling you to stop breastfeeding, heck my little guy is nurse sleeping as I type. Only you and your baby can set the timeline.

But be aware that some of what you are experiencing with pelvic floor dysfunction or how your feeling may be partially due to low estrogen from breastfeeding.

Once I tell my patients this I usually see a wave of relief. That no you aren't crazy, yes you're doing everything you can do to mitigate the symptoms your having.

So I ask again, what is normal? Do you really want to be normal or just in control again of your body?

If you want help finding your normal reach out to me by setting up a free consult call. We'll figure out your next step together!

When Breastfeeding Becomes a Pain in Your Neck

Breastfeeding is one of those things you're told is great for baby.

It improves your bond, it increases baby's immunity, it provides nourishment and nutrients, it helps with baby's gut health and so much more.

Breastfeeding isn't always easy though.

It can take a while for baby to figure out how to latch, causing nipple pain.

You may worry if baby is getting enough to eat.

Your breasts may become engorged leading to blocked ducts or mastitis.

These are things that are typically mentioned if you see a lactation consultant or at least chat with a friend whose breastfed.

But what about how breastfeeding affects the rest of your body?

Yes, breastfeeding can help you slim down from the pregnancy weight. And it can prolong the return of your period.

What you may not have known is it also keeps estrogen and progesterone circulating in your body longer, which means your tissues are softer longer and more susceptible to injury or dysfunction.

This means:

  • your pelvic floor muscles may be strong but you still leak when running.
  • your sacroiliac joint (that joint that connects your sacrum and your pelvis) may continue to be problematic because it's hasn't regained it's support.

What breastfeeding also means for your body is neck and back aches and pains. Holding your baby to breastfeed can take a lot of effort. For a healing body that is already weak, this means compensations and bad habits form.

You may slouch to bring the breast to baby instead of propping up with a pillow.

You may twist or cross your legs.

You're sitting more.

If you nurse lying down you may jut out your ribs to bring your breast to baby.

You're constantly looking down at baby. Because really who doesn't want to stare at baby 24/7?

All this adds up to pain.

So how can you avoid getting a pain in your neck or back while breastfeeding?

1. Posture

Be mindful of your posture. First you need to make sure you are in good posture alignment. This means finding pelvic neutral, where your sitting on your sit bones , your ribs are centered over your pelvis and your spine is long with the natural curves. If the surface you are sitting on is inhibiting this then change where you are sitting or use props. Put pillows behind your, sit on a harder surface, anything that will help. Then use pillows, cushions, blankets, anything  except your body to prop baby up to reach your breast.

When you nurse on your side you want to consider the same thing. You want to make sure your body is in a neutral position. If you twist, make sure it's more of a log roll twist and put a pillow behind you. Make sure your head is supported and your shoulders are away from your ears.

2. Stretch

Stretching tight muscles after nursing is a great way to reduce aches and pains. And over time you'll maintain soft supple tissues rather than dehydrated tissue that will cause even more problems.

Doing simple stretches like:

  • neck rolls
  • reaching your head up and away to the side as you reach your opposite arm down and away
  • looking down to your arm pit
  • bringing your arms up and behind your head to open your chest
  • clasping your hands low behind your chest and reaching back
  • lying on your back and doing snow angles with your arms
  • rib twists
  • side bending
  • cat/cow
  • lunge stretches
  • taylor sit (criss cross applesauce) and bending forward from the hips then switching legs

These are all super simple stretches that you can hold for 30 seconds after nursing. And mix it up, you don't need to do all of them each time.

3. Strengthen Your Core

Reconnecting with your core after birth can take a while. But breastfeeding is a great time to start. Taking a moment to focus on your breathing and tuning in to the movement of the pelvic floor - out on inhale, in on exhale - is the first step. Then start to energize the pelvic floor on exhale, zippering up through the abs, while keeping your bony structure soft and in good posture.

Then when you start to feel up to doing more exercise, starting with basic core connecting exercises is the safest. This is where seeing a maternal health PT is helpful, so you can make sure you are doing the exercises correctly, and there isn't anything else going on that may become problematic.

Breastfeeding is a magical experience that can do wonders for your baby's health. Let it be a time you focus on yourself too!

 

 

Breastfeeding...Tips to Reduce Upper Back Ache

My first experience breastfeeding was in an ER.

My delivery was pretty by the book. I went into labor Friday night, I was able to sleep between the contractions, we were up by around 7:00 am and two hours later I was to the point I couldn't stay home anymore.  We arrived at the independent Birth Center by 9:00 am.

I tried the tub...man was that hot and not for me...even though I LOVE water.

But clearly my body was saying, nope and I respected that.

Instead I climbed into the queen sized bed and pushed on my hands and knees.

Everything was going well, as far as I could tell...even though I joke with my husband that I only dropped the f-bomb once, he chuckles and says if you say so.

But even though I was in pain I was riding the waves of it, resting in between and in a total state of euphoria.

It was REALLY hard work, but I have a hard time describing just how painful and hard of work it was even just 3 years later.

Mostly, I remember things being in a haze around me, the midwives encouraging me, my husband by my side, my mom helping me stay hydrated.

But then, everything changed.

The midwives had me flip onto my back. They insisted I get my baby out.

So after a few pushes her head emerged.

This is when things really get blurry.

Apparently, unlike other circumstances when the umbilical cord is wrapped around a newborns neck it can be removed or does so on it's own during decent.

This was not the case for our little one.

I was strangling her with every push and if I had kept going she may not be here with us today.

This is why the midwives think it took me as long as it did to actually get her head out.

So instead of being able to keep her cord connected as long as possible, as my plan intended, they needed to cut it even before she was fully delivered.

I had 30 SECONDS to get her out after they cut the cord!

Well let me tell you there was no amount of time you could have told me to get my baby out if I knew her life was on the line.

Needless to say with that last push, she was born and I tore.

They placed her on my belly and told my husband and I to rub her vigorously to try to get her to cry.

This didn't work.

They removed her from my belly and had to perform rescue breathing on her to get her to breath.

It has been 3 years and I still tear up thinking about how our vivacious, head strong, wonderful daughter may not be with us, if my awesome midwives hadn't been on the ball.

Within minutes the ambulance came to pick her up and bring her to the hospital.

I was not able to go with her because I tore and needed stitches before I left.

So last I saw her was partially limp, but breathing on  the bed next to me.

My husband followed the ambulance and my mom stayed with me as I was cleaned up.

When I arrived at the hospital, the nurse at the ER desk didn't seem very concerned that there was a newborn infant waiting for her mother in one of the rooms and it felt like eternity to get me back to her.

My midwife was not impressed and rather cross.

When we finally arrived, my husband had our daughter all bundled up and was letting her suck on his finger with sugar water.

The whole time I was being cleaned up and driven over to the hospital and then waiting to be reunited, I was petrified that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed because we had been away from each other too long.

I climbed into an ER bed, in a dark room tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the other goings on and my daughter was handled to me.

When I held her to my breast, it felt so awkward and she seemed so tiny that I was fumbling. But my midwives again encouraged me my daughter latched.

It was a miracle.

We were fortunate that we had no issues nursing, after I was so terrified that I wouldn't be able to.

We went on an nursed for 2 years.

I can't say that through those 2 years it was all sunshine and roses though.

Hello teething!!!

She never really bit, but holy cow her suck became so strong to sooth those tender gums.

But the trickiest part for me was finding positions that wouldn't hurt my neck and back.

She was a nurse to sleep kind of girl.

And sometimes, she would stay nestled in my arms for hours and any time I moved she would scream.

So if I wanted her to nap, I needed to stay put in my rocker.

Fortunately, we found a super comfy glider, rocker combo with ottoman, but even that wasn't enough.

I had pillows galore and would stuff them in all the crevices to get me from slouching down to meet her.

This helped, but still my muscles would ache.

Of course being the physical therapist that I am, I was determined to stop the ache.

This meant not only making sure my posture was in good alignment or that I switched up the position I was in so I wasn't always using the same muscles but I stretched.

I stretched my neck, chest, upper back, hips and buttocks after every feeding.

But stretching isn't enough to make sure you don't slouch. Our core plays a HUGE roll in our posture. After pregnancy and birth our core muscles have to heal, shrink, and remind themselves what their roll is.

Most of the time, they need our help.

This meant when I was sitting or lying down or standing while nursing I did sets of pelvic floor and core exercises.

Some of you may question me when I say exercise, when I not breaking a sweat.

But exercising a muscle does not always require us to be jumping around or moving our whole body to gain benefit.

Actually, in the postpartum period smaller, slower, more intimate exercises will help you heal and get back to those more intense, vigorous exercises without long term issues.

So to recap my tips:

  1. Make sure you are in good posture while breastfeeding. This means if you are sitting - not sitting on your tailbone, bringing the baby to your breast and supporting with as many pillows as necessary. If you are lying down try to switch up the sides you lay on and again prop baby until she is big enough to not need support. If you are standing, the easiest way to breastfeed a newborn without a carrier is in football hold.
  2. Stretch. Tight muscles will lock in the chemicals that help our muscles to work, but over time this build up and constant shortening and pulling on the joints will cause pain. So balance out your muscle by stretching those that are most shortened while nursing. Try out these!
  3. Work on your Core. Starting simple and easy with breathing exercises is the best way to reacquaint yourself with your core. If you had pelvic floor trauma or a cesarean this reconnection may take longer and you may need help from a specialist to figure out what muscles your are targeting and if there is anything may be inhibiting your reconnection, like scar adhesions. Check this video out!

To find out more about proper nursing postures, postpartum stretches and reconnecting to you core sign up here for your free consultation with a maternal pelvic health specialist.