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 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.

Survive Camping While Pregnant

Living so close to the White Mountains of New Hampshire is such a joy.

My husband and I loved getting up to hike and bike before our daughter was born and now that our house renovations (that we are doing ourselves) are winding down our weekends are opening up to get back up there to share with our daughter.

We ventured up to the Whites this past weekend to camp with my brother and family and my parents.

The weekend started off raining, so luckily my parents were able to set up our tent prior to arriving, but I wanted to go over to tips on how to survive camping (and I mean tenting) for a weekend while pregnant.

We knew the nights were going to be on the cool end, so we needed to bring extra blankets and decided the most comfortable way to go would to bring our air mattress.  I don't know if I would do this again.

Here's why...

Air mattresses deflate and move whenever the other person (or in my case people, yes our daughter slept between us) shift. So I a nice firm mattress in the beginning of the night may not be so by the morning.

I found that every time I needed to shift positions I had a hard time getting enough leverage to rotate without disturbing my daughter.

Plus my hips were sore by the morning even with the support of a pillow between my legs.

Tip #1

Make sure the surface that you are sleeping on is comfortable.

There is nothing worse that sleeping outside while pregnant if you are waking up in the morning super stiff or in pain and can't enjoy the activities planned for that day.

So try out an air mattress at home. If you are early enough in pregnancy and a back sleeper, great. You may not have this issue, but for those who need to sleep on your side or are a side sleeper, make sure you have extra pillows to support you or see how your hips do with the stiff or deflated mattress.

If you are using a sleeping pad instead, again, try it out at home first. Especially if you have to sleep on your side. Our hips expand during pregnancy and the pad may not be enough cushion to reduce the pressure point on them.  You also have the option of building up a ramp to sleep on your back, if you have room in the car to bring extra blankets and pillows. So try this out at home as well.

No matter the surface you are sleeping on it is wise to do a wake up stretching routine.

Tip #2

Stretch in the morning.

When we camp, we go on hikes or swim or are extra active.

Then we tend to stay up later and may not get the greatest night sleep.

Thus, morning stiffness can be more of a problem, regardless of your sleeping environment.

So when that sun wakes you up, crawl out of the tent (or stay in the tent) and stretch your body.


Make sure you target multiple areas of the body....hips, side trunk, chest.

Think standing up, reaching for the sky with both hands then bending to the one side.

By warming up your muscles with gentle stretches your setting yourself up to enjoy the other activities lined up for the day.

I don't think I can say this enough......drink water!

Tip #3

Make sure you have another potable water.

Water is the best way to stay hydrated, which is even  more important while pregnant.

If your camp sight does not have potable water, you need to bring enough for your whole stay or having an appropriate method of sanitizing the water. This could be boiling the water or filtering it, the CDC has more information on appropriate water sanitizing while camping.

Other than water, what you eat will also be a factor while you camp.

If the mornings are cool, water water with a lemon is a great way to start the day.

Tip #4

Make sure you plan out your meals so you know you're getting in enough vital vitamins, minerals, calories and proteins.

Of course when you are tenting you don't have all the luxuries of a kitchen, so be reasonable with the meals you pick.

Oatmeal with added goodies like almond butter, flax seeds, cinnamon and dried fruit can be an excellent breakfast.

You can also prepare some food prior to leaving the house. This can help cut down on the dirty dishes. Just make sure you keep the perishable foods cold!

Then once you've figured out your meals you can add in snacks. Easy fruits like apples and bananas are easy to pack and carry around with you. Nuts, roasted chickpeas, sugar snap peas, dried fruit, sandwich crackers are all great snacks to munch on.

And lastly, once all the logistics are figured out....

Tip #5

Have FUN!

Not everything is going to go to plan and while camping you have to have a degree of "let it go" attitude.

Our daughter stayed up much later than we would usually allow her to. But we knew she would be okay and she could take a nap the next day (if she really needed it).

If you want to learn more about safe stretches and a morning routine to get ready for the day while you are pregnant reach out to learn more about my solutions!

So if you are near mountains or pitch a tent in the backyard have fun camping even while pregnant!