Exercises and Stretches to Counterbalance Breastfeeding Posture

Happy National Breastfeeding Week!

The photo below is a special moment between me and my 3 sisters. We made sure to capture incredible memory of us nursing all of our babies – within the same timeframe! This is us at our parent’s house on a warm, breezy summer day!

As we celebrate nursing moms this week, let’s talk a vital aspect of this journey that sometimes goes unnoticed – posture. Breastfeeding is a nurturing and natural part of a woman’s journey throughout motherhood. However, sometimes nursing positions can snowball into some aches, pains, and discomforts down the line due to less than stellar posture. Let’s explore how corrective exercise, fascia flossing, and relaxation poses can help to improve your breastfeeding posture so that you can get back to a more enjoyable feeding routine.  

The Importance of Posture in Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is an amazing bonding experience between mom and baby. However, improper posture during nursing sessions can lead to discomfort, strain, and even pain. Hunched or slouched positions during this activity can lead to shoulder, neck, and back pain that, if not corrected, can snowball into other postural imbalances over time. Postural imbalances are often the cause of low-back pain, pelvic pain, hip pain, neck, and shoulder pain during daily activities or exercise – reducing your ability to thrive and move comfortably as you age and care for your growing child.

Corrective Exercise as a Key Player in Overcoming Postural Imbalances

Corrective exercise focuses on correcting muscular imbalances, improving alignment, and enhancing overall body function. These exercises target specific areas throughout the body to restore balance and alleviate pain. By incorporating corrective exercises into your routine, you can address potential issues that may have arisen during pregnancy or childbirth, ultimately supporting your breastfeeding posture and care provider physicality.

Try these 5 corrective exercises to begin rebalancing the front and back body:

1. Cat-Cow: Come to the floor on all fours or in a “horse stance”. Be sure your hands are directly under your shoulders and knees are directly under your hips. Round your back and scoop your tailbone under to round the spine, then bring the chest forward and arch your back. (Note, if you have an anteriorly tilted pelvis, try to overemphasize the arch of your low back – bring the pelvis closer to neural and focus more on the arch in the upper half of your spine). Alternate between the rounding and arching of the spine for 20-30 seconds. This movement promotes spinal flexibility and encourages a healthy curvature of the spine.

2. Cobra Pulses: While lying on your belly or standing with a subtle hip hinge place your arms by your side with your palms facing forward and thumbs slightly turned out. If hinging, be sure to engage your glutes and core to support this posture. Try to keep your neck and upper traps relaxed while engaging the tips of your shoulder blades. Pulse this engagement on and off for 20-30 seconds. This is a subtle and soft engagement, this should be lead with scapulae engagement, try to avoid pushing your hands back and forth – they’re just along for the ride!

  • Tip, if you have trouble finding this engagement, roll up a yoga mat and lie on it so it’s along your spine and tailbone. Place your arms be your side with your palms face up and try to engage your shoulder blades along the mat. Pulse slowly for 20-30 seconds.

3. Wall-Slides (or Wall Angels): Stand with your back to a wall and feet slightly away so they are directly under your hips. Reach your arms up directly over your shoulders and then slide your elbows close to the wall until are at a 90 degree bend (like a goal post). Slowly slide your arms up and down the wall while your elbows and back keep contact with the wall. This move will help you engage the muscle along your upper back needed for improved posture.

4. Pelvic Tilts: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Use your diaphragm to inhale into your ribs, belly, and back and to relax your pelvic floor. As you exhale, engage your pelvic floor and deep abdominals (try wrapping your hips together) while you scoop your tailbone forward. Inhale and come back to the starting position. Repeat, using your breath, for 20-30 seconds. Try this movement in various positions such as on all fours or in standing.

5. Thoracic Extension Stretch: Sit on stability ball or the front half of a chair, keep your sit bones neutral and ribs stacked over your hips. Place your fingertips behind the base of your head and elbows out to the sides. Gently arch your upper back while breathing deeply into your diaphragm.

Fascia – Reworking Your Scaffolding

Fascia – or connective tissue – plays a major role in how our posture forms over time. By sitting in these postures that put us out of balance, our body lays down connective tissue – fibroblasts – which gets dense and hardened from limited movement. This can lead to a feeling of stiffness and tension throughout our joints and muscles.

Try this! Work the muscles of your upper back – mid traps, lats, scapulae – with this fascia flossing exercise:

Come into a tabletop position. Plug your foreams into the floor to engage the muscles of your upper back. Keep plugging the arms down and slightly back (without actually moving your arms) and send your hips backward to add length to these muscles while staying engage. Relax and reset. Repeat 10-15 times. Try adding variety by taking arms more narrow and sending hips back on an angle.

By freeing up our connective tissue through myofascial release techniques, we can clean up any dense, hardened fascia that may be forming as we spend these months in feeding postures. When the connective tissue becomes stagnant and dense, we have a harder time connecting to our neuromuscular junction which can further push us down the path toward imbalance, and later, aches and pains. Fascia flossing (from TheFloss.com) is my go-to tool for clients so that we can internally exfoliate our connective tissue and reclaim more optimal postures quickly and efficiently. For more info about fascia flossing, schedule a free virtual preview session with Melissa at mombellyfitness@gmail.com or book a 1-hour fascia flossing private session – virtually or in-person (Louisville).

Relax, (every)body!

Sometimes, all we simply need to do is get our muscles to relax. Nursing postures typically put us in a rounded position which over-lengthens our rear-shoulder and back muscles while also shortening our anterior delt and chest muscles. These muscles will find themselves trying to get back to a state of balance – leading some muscle cells to fire constantly, while overtime weakening the muscles involved.

Try this! Lie along a foam roller – with your head, spine, and tailbone fully supported – you’ll find your overworked muscles melting into a relaxed state and working their way back to a balanced position. While lying here, ractice slow deep breathing into your diaphragm and ribs. You should feel the tension melting away. Aim for 20 minutes on the roller and experience a phenomenally relaxing experience!

Incorporate Corrective Exercises into Your Exercise Routine

Consulting with a certified prenatal or postpartum corrective exercise specialist can provide you with some insight into what corrective exercises you should be incorporating into your regular routine. At Mom Belly Fitness, you will be led through a comprehensive movement assessment, core assessment, and pelvic floor assessment so that you can tailor corrective exercises to your specific needs.

Mom Belly Fitness hosts a 6-week program – REALIGNED MAMA – designed to rebalance your body from the inside out. During this time you will reset your postural imbalances (such as the posture held from nursing a baby) and practice corrective exercises and stretches to teach your body how to naturally realign and reduce the aches and pains that can come with these feeding postures. Together you’ll design a routine that will help you thrive throughout the rest of motherhood!

If you’d like to work with me and design a program that fits your specific needs, reach out to Melissa at mombellyfitness@gmail.com. The next round of REALIGNED MAMA runs September 17, 2023 through October 27. Apply at this link today!

  • Trainer adjusting woman in a glute bridge pose

Self-Care For Mama Bear

Lean into your overall well-being as a mother. Discover a routine and regimen that is going to make the journey of chest feeding, breastfeeding, or bottle feeding the very best for you and your baby. Happy National Breastfeeding Week – Here’s to you and all of the strong, confident, and empowered moms out there!

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