Breastfeeding can be a real pain — literally. I breastfed my children each for more than a year, with my oldest child breastfeeding continuously for almost two years. I experienced more than a few aches and pains for my trouble. Breastfeeding was the first time in my life when I stood up after sleeping and everything made a noise. I didn't even know some of those areas could crack audibly, but they did. I was a uniquely lazy breastfeeder when it came to positioning, which was my mistake. Turns out, there are breastfeeding positions for a healthy back that might require forethought, but are no more difficult than what you may already be doing. (Plus they're far superior.)
Hunching your back and holding your baby without support can lead to bad posture and pain, according to The Chiropractic Place. It's essential that posture and spinal alignment be considered when positioning your child to breastfeed. This can be difficult to balance when you're also trying to optimize your child's ability to nurse effectively and easily. According to the article, you need to bring your baby to your breast, not the other way around, that way you avoid hunching and neck pain. You also need to have your baby's weight properly supported and at the correct height for your breastfeeding needs.
I spoke with International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Mina Rorcharshky, and she tells Romper that the best breastfeeding positions for a healthy back keep the spine neutral. "Consider lying on your side while you breastfeed or leaning back and lying your child stomach to stomach on top of your breasts." Rorcharsky notes that every breastfeeding mom at some point is going to get lazy with their hold and likely get a bit of strain and discomfort. It's a universal truth of breastfeeding as it were, but that it shouldn't be an everyday occurrence.
Additionally, there are tricks you can use to remind yourself to straighten up while nursing. "If you're seated, sit in a chair with a good, tall back in it, and pull your shoulders back so that your lower back spreads across the chair. Do this a few times every session. If you're nursing in a prone position, take a few deep breaths while you're breastfeeding your baby and feel where your body hits the surface you're laying on." She finds that this can be a good reminder of how your posture relates to comfort. "A football hold can allow for more stretching and a straighter back than having your baby in front of you, and doesn't encourage you to cross your legs as much, straining your back." I'd honestly never considered how often I did cross my legs while breastfeeding. It was probably almost every time.
I'm not going to lie. Between my first child and my second, this level of supporting your baby's weight and having them at the correct height was probably lowered by a few notches. I'm picturing an office chair as a breastfeeding pillow, and the more children I breastfeed, the lower that chair goes. But half (OK, more than half) of the time, I just sort of yanked out a nipple and held my kids to it while they were sort of haphazardly adjusted on a flattened Boppy pillow. This was probably the cause of my burning lower back and near permanent hunch I had while breastfeeding. I was too tired to consider options and not enlightened enough to ask questions. It was not my finest hour and I'm still paying for it.
Hopefully you find a comfortable and relaxing position for both you and your baby and can avoid the tricky burning back and creaking joints I suffered from while breastfeeding. Try out a few positions, see how they feel, and go from there. Just remember, keep the spine neutral.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.