Breastfeeding

These breastfeeding positions for women with back problems can alleviate pain.
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5 Best Breastfeeding Positions To Ease Back Pain

So you can truly enjoy nursing your baby.

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Although breastfeeding has countless benefits for both you and your baby, many moms don't expect some of the aches and pains that come along with it, namely the back pain that comes from toting your (surprisingly heavy) little one with you and sitting down more often than usual. Whether or not you've suffered from back problems in the past, new mothers can have back pain as a result of being pregnant, being in labor, and sitting in a hospital bed, and you may notice that breastfeeding places unprecedented strain on your back and aggravates it more.

“The biggest cause [of] back pain is a mom who is hunching over her baby and bringing her breasts to the baby instead of her baby to the breast,” Michelle Poole, a board-certified lactation consultant, tells Romper. “Since she’s trying to get this nice, deep latch, she might wind up in this super uncomfortable, non-ergonomic position, but because her baby is latched and eating, the mom just stays like that.”

If you're suddenly dealing with more back pain than you’ve had in the past, don't be surprised. Along with all of the other motherhood-related changes, breastfeeding moms have to adapt to sitting for longer periods of time than they're likely used to, and with that lifestyle change comes some necessary adjustments to ensure you’re treating your back right.

Luckily, there are several breastfeeding positions for women with back problems that, when combined with lower back physical therapy stretches and exercises, can help relieve or maybe even permanently correct some of the pain you’re experiencing. Of course, it’s not only women who breastfeed, and these positions will help parents of any gender who are currently nursing a child. Even if you aren't dealing with back pain right now, these five expert-backed breastfeeding positions for back pain will help you take care of your body while you nurse, ensuring that it doesn't become an issue later on.

1

Reclined Position

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Reclining while nursing is much easier on your lower back. This position, also sometimes called biological nursing, feels like a natural position for most moms and is great for the back, board-certified lactation consultant Rebecca Koyf tells Romper.

“One of the first positions I recommend to moms is a reclined or laid-back position, and for good reason: This position alleviates strain on the back and shoulders, as well as arms,” says Koyf. “In this position, gravity works for you and the baby. It’s a natural position ⁠— most baby mammals nurse that way.”

You can try this position in the comfort of your own bed or in a chair that reclines. Simply place your baby on top of your chest, supporting your arms with pillows in whatever way feels most comfortable for you. Your baby will turn their head to nurse, and you won't have to support yourself or your baby. According to Koyf, the baby will be nursing in a tummy-to-tummy position and get a deeper and wider latch by arching their back and lowering their jaw more.

2

Side-Lying Position

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Another position to try out if you’re dealing with back pain is to lie on your side, perhaps with pillows to support your back if that feels good. Then you can lay your baby next to you with their nose in line with your nipple. You can nurse without supporting yourself or your baby, and maybe even doze off (just make sure you have someone keeping tabs on you and baby if you think you might fall asleep). For this reason, Koyf says many moms refer to it as a “lifesaving” position. “Once they master it, it lets them nurse in bed at nighttime and therefore have a more restful night,” she says. “Just make sure that the baby is facing mom and is not turning her head to latch.”

Similar to the reclined position, a side-lying breastfeeding position is great for making sure the mother’s back is fully supported with no added pressure. Poole thinks many mothers don’t instinctively go for this nursing position because it seems a bit too good to be true.

“You don't have to do much but lay there, and a lot of moms aren't doing that because I think we made things harder for ourselves,” Poole says. “You might think that it’s too easy [or] can't possibly work, but it actually does and it is easy, and it could provide a lot of back relief.”

3

Nursing With A Sling Or Baby Carrier

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Using a sling to nurse is a fantastic way to transfer some of the pressure to the front instead of having it all on your back. “It gives women freedom and causes less straining on the back by distributing the baby’s weight evenly across the shoulder and the back,” Koyf explains. “In addition, it lets them move around, and that in itself relieves stress on the back.”

Carriers and slings also give moms the opportunity to stand up and be mobile while breastfeeding, according to Koyf. “You can even do gentle exercise and stretching, just ensure that the baby’s head is supported,” she says.

4

Sitting Up Straight

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Although it's not a distinct, separate nursing position, remembering to have good posture while you nurse will save your back from extra pain. While, of course, it’s best to avoid hunching over while you breastfeed, sitting up straight for extended periods of time can tire out your back, too. “In this situation we recommend supporting the mom’s back, arms, and head, [and] possibly raising her feet,” says Koyf.

Similarly, Poole explains that getting a simple footstool or ottoman will work wonders to ensure a mom’s body positioning doesn’t include slouching over. “It’s super helpful for moms to get a footstool and make their lap higher, so as soon as they bring their lap up, it forces them to sit back a little bit,” says Poole. “It doesn't even matter what position you're using — just get a footstool so that you're not having to lean over so much.”

Additionally, when sitting up straight, Koyf recommends paying special attention to how the baby is situated from the beginning. “The baby should be positioned on the mom’s arms, and her arms could then be supported by a nursing pillow — the reason being is that if baby is positioned directly on the nursing pillow, the mom eventually hunches her back and leans forward to get a deeper latch, which could cause a lot of strain on her back,” says Koyf. “Having the baby on her arms enables her to bring the baby to her.”

5

Standing Up

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As odd as it sounds, standing up to nurse might briefly take the pressure off of your back, especially if you find your back sore after being in another position. The thing to keep in mind, though, according to Koyf, is that it might not be the best option to do for long periods of time.

“Although nursing standing up is not sustainable long-term, it works great for babies and moms [who] just cannot get comfortable,” Koyf says. “I recommend getting up and to start walking or even dancing, [so that] the mom’s and baby’s body contour each other, and the baby latches easier.” Once that happens, the mom can hopefully sit down more comfortably in order to ensure that her back is well-supported.

Nursing pillows can be helpful if you find starting in the standing position useful. Simply attach the pillow to your waist, and it can help support your baby while you stand. Poole notes, though, that standing positions, even with the use of pillows, may not be the best for babies under eight weeks old. “They need help — if you're standing up, they don't have head control,” Poole explains. “They're going to need a lot of help getting onto the front and staying in a good position.”

As a final tip, Poole advises involving a partner to help make sure you are treating yourself and your back right when nursing. “They can help remind you to relax your shoulders, sit back, use a pillow — those kinds of little reminders to help you when it comes to breastfeeding.” Though it can feel like you are simply living in service of your newborn, protecting your body and health is incredibly important in raising your baby.

Experts:

Michelle Poole, board-certified lactation consultant

Rebecca Koyf, board-certified lactation consultant