I recently wrote about neck and back pain from breastfeeding; however, I wanted to address shoulder pain from breastfeeding too. This was not something that affected me personally, but enough of my mom friends lamented about it that I thought I’d better discuss it.
In particular, my friend Michelle was in a world of hurt from shoulder pain with breastfeeding. She would always use the same position, and when she was out with her daughter Camille, she would tend to rely on the same arm to carry her.
According to La Leche League, what happens here is that you’re putting one shoulder joint under more stress. That constant stress irritates it, causing bursitis and making things feel really tender.
It’s quite common, so much so that it’s often dubbed “Mom Shoulders.”
On top of that, Michelle had back pain too. She felt worn down and exhausted from this, trying to get relief by pumping and letting her husband take over more of the feedings. Even then, though, she needed some help.
If Michelle’s situation sounds similar to what you’re going through, don’t worry. I have 5 tips that can help you manage your shoulder and back pain during breastfeeding.
- Switch sides when carrying the baby
My first tip involves actively reminding yourself to use different arms when you’re carrying the baby. This one is tricky since most of us carry our babies with our left side if we’re right-handed. Why not the right side? Because we learn to do things one-handed while holding the baby and the left feels more natural.
So, switch sides. And do use your baby carrier, but use it wisely.
I carried both my girls in the carrier so often but on the front. Part of that was because people are so friendly that they just want to come up and touch the baby in China. That sweetness, though gets irritating when your baby hasn’t had all her vaccines yet, and you want to keep her safe from germs, so I always wore both girls in front. You can mitigate those pains by reading my other article for back and neck-saving tips.
- Make sure you do that for nursing too
Some positions are just more comfortable, and we tend to favor certain breasts for nursing. Oddly, my youngest preferred my left breast. As she weaned later on, she never drank from my right breast. Make sure you change positions for nursing to switch it up to keep from overexerting one shoulder over the other.
And of course, you can and should do the side-lying position when you’re home, especially if you have back, neck, or shoulder pain. This will take the strain off and allow you some time to recover.
- This one you’ll love – SLEEP
Again, I mentioned this in my other post, but sleep is so important. Studies show your body repairs itself during sleep. But you need to get to that REM stage to enjoy more recovery.
As a new mom, you might feel shy about asking for help, but please don’t. We ALL need it, and your loved ones should be delighted to pitch in. As annoying as my mother-in-law could be with her horrible singing to the baby, it was a relief to hand off my daughters so that I could get in more sleep. My husband helped, too, especially when I was aching all over. Sleep is reparative, and it can help your body recover faster, so do it! ?
- Support your upper body while nursing
Pillows of all kinds are your friend postpartum. To relieve back and shoulder pain from breastfeeding, make use of these pillows. I didn’t have a pregnancy pillow, but I used every pillow in our home to prop myself up for other nursing positions. And I didn’t have a nursing pillow because I couldn’t find one in China (you can read about that here), so I used other pillows to lift my girls for easier access.
Lower back pain is a problem, too, so make sure you put a pillow there. If you cover all these areas, you’ll reduce the strain on them and avoid a lot of aches later on.
- Try physiotherapy
Massage is great, but for shoulder pain from breastfeeding, a physiotherapist may be a bit more beneficial. It’s a natural way to control the pains and regain range of motion. You can ask your doctor for a referral.
It’s safe to take Tylenol or even Motrin while you’re breastfeeding but always consult with your doctor first to be sure. That way, you’ll have full peace of mind. Nothing causes more aches than stress, which can manifest all over your body. A quick chat with an MD will put your mind at complete ease.
Don’t Suffer from Shoulder Pain While Breastfeeding
Honestly, these tips should help, but if they don’t, or you feel like something is majorly off, make an appointment with your doctor. You don’t need to suffer and live with pain. As I said, it is usually caused by the poor nursing technique in hunching, not supporting your body, and carrying your baby on one side all the time.
As your baby gets bigger, it is harder on your back, neck, and shoulders, so if it hurts now, don’t wait to help those muscle groups recover. Your body will start going down to size soon too, which will make a difference in how you feel when nursing.
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs. She loves eating too much sushi, exercise, and jamming out on her Fender.