One of my most read blog posts on my website is “Breastfeeding and exercise” and I guess you could say that today’s article is a long-awaited follow up to this.
I wrote that original article many many years ago to give new mums answers about how to exercise comfortably whilst breastfeeding, whether exercise affects milk supply and how many calories need to be consumed to enable the system to continue to lactate etc.
A few years down the track and a lot more education later, I’m back with a new instalment which I’m actually pleased to say is some of my best work if I’m honest.
Producing milk isn’t so much a struggle for many of you as such (although I could write a whole piece on that if you wish), but many more of you often comment and ask me questions about how to stop getting pain in your shoulders, neck and back whilst feeding.
I received an email a month or so ago from a new mummy client of mine who comes to Mummies and Buggies with this question:
I think one thing that I would like is more advice on what to eat whilst breastfeeding. Us mums are craving carbs and sugar, and eating loads of rubbish like that is obviously not good for us, but I also find it can make me feel a bit down in the dumps/not sleep well etc.
A feature on what are the best foods to eat whilst breastfeeding to keep our energy levels going & stop snacking as much would be very welcome I’m sure.
So, I’m here today to give my top tips on beating the sugar cravings, and give you ideas on what sorts of foods you should be eating as a new mum who’s breastfeeding, or a pregnant mum who’s busy growing a human or two inside themselves.
‘Snacking’ isn’t really what I’m going with here, by the way. We’re not cows, ok? Three meals a day should be more than enough.
Sure, the guidelines in late pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding state that you need around an extra 200 calories per day to sustain the demands on your body.
I’ve never been one to count calories – what your body needs is solid nutrients – that is the difference in the message I’m sending here.
Here’s an example:
- One chicken breast = 197 calories, 0.00g carbs, 7.79g fat, 29.80g protein
- One aero bar = 221 calories, 25.2g of carbs, 12.30g fat and 2.10g protein
16 04 2013
It doesn’t matter if you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding your baby, sitting in a correctly-aligned position whilst doing so is really important.
You’ll hear me mention in my postnatal fitness and Pilates classes all the time that the postural changes that occur to your shoulders/chest/upper back during pregnancy only get worse if you do nothing about them after you’ve had your baby.
You’re constantly leaning forwards, forever bending down and possibly slouching your way through the best part of your day as a new mum. That’s a fact of life!
What I’m going to run through here though, is the optimal position your body should be in when you’re breastfeeding your baby to help the strain some of you are feeling in your neck and shoulders.
When you’re seated in a slumped position, your deep stabilising muscles just switch off and stop working. Think about the number of hours a day you spend feeding. I’d think it’s quite a lot! Rounding forwards over your baby therefore causes back and neck ache – something you want to avoid.
Here’s a quick checklist of what position your body should be in when you’re feeding your baby:
- Choose a chair where you can sit upright. In other words, a soft, bucket-shaped seat is more inappropriate, because you’re forcing your upper body to slouch forwards, and your lower back to curve and mould itself into the chair. Not so good for posture, eh? Choose a chair like a dining room table chair, or a seat with a hard back.
- Sit back in the chair so your spine is fully supported. Or, place a few pillows behind your upper and lower back to bring you out of the chair if its seat is deeper set.
- Sit tall. So, think of lengthening your spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head. The suggestion above of placing a pillow behind your upper/lower back will help you sit straighter, by the way.
- Use a footstool or a pile of books under your feet. Why? This is done so that it lifts your feet off the floor, places your knees higher than your hips and therefore takes the pressure off your back.
- Lie your baby on a pillow. The analogy here is “bring baby to you”, rather than “going down to baby”. Adopting the former will help your spine to stay upright, lessen the chances of neck strain and put your shoulders in the right position.
Ensuring you’re maintaining correct posture whilst in seated is really hard, particularly if your baby isn’t a good feeder. But, going back to what I said before about how many hours you spend feeding your baby, it soon tallies up over one day, doesn’t it?
I know you may be fearful of changing position during the middle of a feed, but if you think about it, placing your body in the right position to start with, with all of those supports etc will enable your baby to feed, and will certainly reduce those common aches and pains experienced in the neck and shoulders.
So, today’s task for you is:
a) Find a sturdy chair, 2-3 pillows and a stack of magazines/books
b) Place the books on the floor, and the pillow(s) under baby and/or behind your back
c) Bring baby towards you, and
d) Sit tall
Give it a try and let me know how you get on?!
To download a Worksheet listing step-by-step instructions on how to improve your posture for feeding click here or take a look at my video on best positions for feeding on YouTube – https://youtu.be/P5Ge67UYe3s
Mummies and Buggies Postnatal Fitness Classes are specific postnatal fitness classes for new mums who want to exercise confidently, safely and effectively after birth, with their baby. They are a good all-rounder and suitable for any new mum to join, at any point after birth.