You probably find yourself running around all day and coming home exhausted, only to start all over again in the evening to make sure the children are fed, bathed and ready for bed. If you have small children the work never stops: being in the office probably feels like a break from family duties. With so many things to worry about, the stress and the rush, your health my suffer, particularly your back.
During pregnancy and after giving birth, mothers tend to suffer from back pain. During the pregnancy, the abdominal muscles become weaker to allow space for the growing baby and the lower back becomes less supported. After the birth, breastfeeding can cause additional back pain, particularly in the upper back. Posture might be the last thing you think about while breastfeeding, especially if you have another child to look after. While breastfeeding, it is quite common to find yourself slouching. Most moms are so concerned about the baby latching on properly that they forget about their posture, so they end up curving their spine, shoulders and neck which then tends to cause constant aches and tension.
Start paying attention to your body mechanics: at the first signs of pain, change position and improve your posture by sitting up or standing up straight. A common cause of pain, as mentioned, is breastfeeding so you could use a nursing pillow, which is a U-shaped cushion to help support your baby. Nursing pillows allow you to keep your spine straighter, are more comfortable for your baby to rest on and free up your hands while breastfeeding. If the upper shoulders and neck become unbearably painful you could also try feeding lying on your side.
Another common cause of pain is holding the baby with one arm and supporting the baby with one hip while using the other arm for carrying a bag, making a phone call or taking another child by the hand. Carrying a growing baby puts a lot of strain on the mother’s spine and surrounding muscles. Picking up and carrying a baby can happen 50 times a day according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and as the baby grows from 7-10 pounds to 15-20 pounds in one year, it becomes more difficult and uncomfortable.
Starting a gentle stretching and exercise routine can help strengthen the back and prevent injuries like muscle strains. Even 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference, (ideally after receiving instructions from a fitness professional.) Use an ergonomic baby carrier when going out or when you need to free up your hands. This helps avoid hip and shoulder strain from carrying your baby with one arm.
Regular massage can help new mothers release muscle tension and become more aware of their bodies, particularly after the changes brought by the pregnancy. Massage will bring more oxygen to the muscles so it can help relieve the strain and improve muscle suppleness in the back and shoulders, especially from carrying the baby and breastfeeding. Massage will also release endorphins, the “feel good” hormones, which act as natural painkillers, as well as oxytocins, which help produce milk. Massaging the chest area can also prevent or deal with blocked milk ducts as well as reducing breast discomfort.
Finally, massage can help with feelings of stress and depression – as a new mom you might experience post-natal depression or feel like you can’t cope with all the demands from motherhood. A massage will give you a chance to recoup and get some needed rest.
Remember, you can’t take care of everyone else if you don’t take care of yourself!