There's no question that motherhood is rough on a woman's body. From the aches and pains of pregnancy to the ordeal of childbirth to the various strains and sprains that come with caring for a little one, the struggle is seriously real. Then there's breastfeeding, of course — not only does nursing put your actual breasts through quite a lot of abuse, it's no picnic for your shoulders, neck, and spine, either. So what's the best breastfeeding position for a healthy back?
The problem, of course, is that too many moms (myself included) don't or didn't pay enough attention to posture while feeding their babies. It's perfectly understandable: When you first start out breastfeeding, most of the time you're too preoccupied with figuring out how to get your baby to latch on to worry about the whether or not the position you're in is going to cause you back problems down the road (or even later that same day). I have a distinct (and painful) new mom memory of struggling to get my newborn daughter to nurse, switching sides and wrestling with a Boppy, twisting and turning in desperation. By the time she finally got a good latch, I didn't even realize that I was holding her at an angle that contorted my upper body into an unbelievably uncomfortable shape — which I was then stuck in for the next 45 minutes, petrified that if I moved I'd disrupt her feeding and we'd have to start all over again. Ouch.
Indeed, this is one situation where the old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" really does apply: If you get into bad postural habits from the start, repeating those same mistakes over and over again on a daily basis is eventually going to do some damage. So as much as taking care of your baby is your #1 priority right now, you need to make sure you're taking care of yourself at the same time.
"The best position for feeding is achieved when mom first gets comfortable then brings the baby to the breast," lactation consultant Danielle Downs Spradlin, IBCLC, CLC, tells Romper.
"Leaning back positions where the baby is supported by the mom's torso tend to be more comfortable," she says.
"When the baby is stable against mom's body and gravity is pushing the baby against the mother, there is less need to use arms to hold a baby. Moms are more likely to have back pain when they hold the baby with the baby tummy up and lean forward."
There's even a term for this type of nursing: Laid-back breastfeeding (also known as "Biological Nurturing"). As this video demonstration by Spradlin shows, this style of feeding definitely lives up to its name (both literally and figuratively):
You can see how this approach would be infinitely more comfortable than hunching over your little one trying to tilt her head just right. And it makes all the obsessing new moms do over mastering the proper holds (the "football," the "crossover," etc.) seem sort of unnecessary at the end of the day.
"When using laid-back breastfeeding, ideally each mother finds her own best variations by trial and error," lactation consultant Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, wrote in an article for Breastfeeding USA.
"In light of these insights, I think the time has come for us to stop naming and teaching specific breastfeeding 'holds,'" Mohrbacher continues.
"That way, mothers will no longer waste their time trying to duplicate feeding positions taught in classes or pictured in books that may not be right for them or — even worse — may even make early breastfeeding more difficult."
(Or, in other words, a literal pain in the neck.)
There are so many uncomfortable aspects of parenting that just can't be avoided, but breastfeeding-induced back pain apparently isn't one of them! Just remember: Laid-back is best for your back.
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.