Easy self-care strategies to prevent and ease postpartum body aches and pains
By Dr. Bettina Ambuehl-Honegger, D.C.
If you are a mom you have been there. Times when even a trip to the bathroom seems like an impossible challenge. You are needed. Right now. You must respond to the needy, crying little creature immediately. Your biology has made you this way because you are a mother.
When you are totally focused on your new baby, it is easy to forget your own body. Bending over when nursing, or changing diapers, lifting and carrying your baby might leave your back and neck tight and sore.
I won’t repeat the well-meant advice to seek “me-time”. Chances are you can’t or won’t leave your baby just yet. What you really need is a toolbox of easily accessible self-care tricks that can be applied while you care for your little one to help you through this physically and emotionally challenging time without overtaxing your body.
1. Make Feeding Time Relaxation Time!
Whether you are nursing or bottle feeding your wee one, you will do this often and for long periods of time. Make it as comfortable as possible! I see a lot of upper back and neck tension and pain in young mothers due to poor feeding posture. This can be avoided: The key is not to round your back and shoulders but to find a position that comfortably supports the baby as well as yourself.
More valuable tips on breastfeeding can be found here www.lllc.ca
2. Try laid-back nursing
This is a wonderful way to relax enjoy being with your baby. It is also called “Biological Nurturing” as it encourages the natural breastfeeding instincts of both you and the baby.
Lie back on a couch. Get as many pillows as you need to support your body in a semi-reclined position. Let your baby rest on your tummy while offering your breast.
You can find more about this here.
3. Use props
This one applies to nursing as well as bottle feeding. Most moms do have a feeding pillow at home. There are slightly different versions. In the end, they all do the same thing: They support the baby so that you don’t have to lift her with your arms and shoulders. Make sure the baby is lying high enough. She should be on her side facing you. If you’re still bending forward to get her to your breast it will tax your back and neck. Play around with props and positions until you find a way to keep your back and shoulders relaxed and rolled back. It might help to put one foot on a step stool to further elevate the head of the baby.
4. Stretch and Massage!
Take advantage of playtime to move your body in any way that helps release any tension, but be gentle with your body. Don’t think about getting back into shape quite yet. The goal here is simply to ease muscle tension and prevent pain through gentle movements. Always be sure to check with your health professional before starting any postpartum exercise routine.
These three easy stretches can safely be done soon after giving birth to loosen upper back and neck tension:
1. Shoulder rolls: Slowly lift your shoulders then bring them back and down. Think of your shoulder blades sliding down and towards another. Repeat slowly several times.
2. Doorway stretch: Hold one arm against a door post or wall. Gently lean into it and turn your body away from it until you feel the stretch in your chest muscles. Hold for a few seconds and repeat on the other side. Vary the height of your arms to stretch different parts of your chest.
3. Gentle neck stretch: Try post-isometric relaxation. Look down and to one side. Put your hand behind your head. Before stretching push your head gently into the hand for about 5 seconds. Then stretch gently.
Easy homemade self-massage tool:
Put two tennis balls into a sock and tie it so the balls sit tight. Place your fancy peanut massage roller between your upper back and the wall. Move up and down with gentle pressure. You’ll find sore spots called trigger points. The pressure will help release them.
5. Breathe and Sing!
Take a few deep breaths! Deep breathing induces relaxation. But not only this, a mindful breathing practice is a great and always accessible way to pause and push the “reset” button no matter what you are doing. The only problem is to remember to breathe deeply when you most need it – in the middle of a frenzy. It might help to put up a reminder, like a post-it on the fridge or on the mirror. Next time you are carrying and trying to soothe your crying munchkin for hours on end try to focus on your breathing. Or – sing to the baby! Singing deepens the breath and lifts the mood – you might as well end up soothing not only the baby, but also yourself!
6. Seek Help!
Sometimes all our good intentions won’t keep us from slouching, lifting, carrying, bending over a crib for hours while patting a baby’s back. I have been there. Soreness or even pain might follow – it’s called overuse. Besides you might feel overwhelmed and absolutely exhausted. All this is very common for anybody taking care of an infant – or toddler, or preschooler or both. But there is no need to suffer in secrecy. Remember to take care of yourself to be able to care for your children!
Go see a Chiropractor for achy backs, necks, headaches or general muscle soreness. See a Psychotherapist for persistent blues. A Lactation Consultant for breastfeeding issues. Or anybody else you feel might help you get going again. It might seem almost impossible to leave the house and get to an appointment with a newborn. But think of this: Professionals caring for moms are used to seeing babies and will welcome your little one at their office!
Dr. Bettina Ambuehl-Honegger, D.C. is a Chiropractor at Spadina Chiropractic Center at Bloor and Spadina. As a mother of two little girls, she knows from personal experience how chiropractic care can help with the aches and pains many pregnant women and young mothers deal with. This is why she loves supporting women throughout their pregnancies and the time after. Originally from Switzerland, Dr. Ambuehl is fluent in English, French, and German. Feel free to contact her at [email protected], and visit www.spadinachiropractic.com, or call (416)-928-1124 for an appointment.