mother breastfeeding baby with neck and back pain

New mums often experience neck and back pain that may be related to breastfeeding. Sitting for hours each day breastfeeding, craning your neck to meet baby’s gaze and hunching over to find the perfect nursing position can cause a stiff and painful low back and neck.

Tips for preventing neck and back pain while breastfeeding

  1. Check your feeding position: sit in a firm chair with your back supported and upright to protect the lower back. A better posture and sitting position may provide you relief from back pain
  2. Pull your shoulder blades back to support your neck and upper back – try not to let the lower portion of your spine curve forward excessively
  3. Use pillows to provide extra support for your back if needed
  4. Do not lean forward or slouch towards the baby
  5. Hold the baby with flat open hands to avoid tendonitis and wrist pain
  6. Keep both feet supported on the floor
  7. Bring the baby up to you – use a nursing pillow or prop your baby position up by using pillows
  8. Try changing your breastfeeding position frequently – lying down on the bed or floor may be a good option if you have back pain and helps you rest
  9. Use a hot pack on the painful area during breastfeeding to get some relief from pain. It is a great way to reduce tension or pain in the spine while breastfeeding
  10. Stay hydrated – try to drink at least eight cups of water a day. Dehydration can lead to exhaustion as well as aggravated body aches and pains

How to look after your body while breastfeeding

It’s important to get adequate rest and sleep particularly in the early weeks after your baby’s birth. Try to have some quiet time for yourself and sleep or rest when your baby sleeps. A relaxed and rested body is less likely to have aches and pains such as back pain.

Try walking each day to help strengthen your back muscles – 30 minutes a day if you can. If you can’t find time to go out of the house you can walk around your garden or in your home. Any walking is good for your body and the added benefit of fresh air is also good for you.

It takes about six weeks for your body to heal itself after the birth of your baby. After this time if you feel healthy and fine, start some light exercises to strengthen your body and get back into shape. Start gradually with 10 to 15 minutes daily, slowly increasing the time and intensity – listen to your body. Starting exercise will help alleviate any lower back pain while breastfeeding.


Exercises that can help relieve back pain from breastfeeding

Try these simple stretches to help relieve back pain:

Cat-Cow pose

  • Get on all fours placing your hands under your shoulders.
  • Keep your knees hip-distance apart and your spine neutral.
  • Inhale and gradually arch your back by looking up.
  • Start to look down, exhale slowly and roll your back while tucking your tailbone under.
  • Release your head towards the floor – don’t force your chin to your chest.
  • Repeat this 10 times. Be careful not to overstrain any of these movements.

Child Pose

  • Sit back on your heels on a mat.
  • Place your palms flat on the ground and slowly stretch your arms in front of you.
  • Inhale and slowly exhale while resting your chest towards the ground.
  • Move your hands towards the left and breathe into your right ribcage and then do the same on the other side.
  • Repeat this 10 times. Be careful not to overstrain any of these movements.

Restorative Chest Stretch

  • Roll a towel and place it on the ground
  • Lie on the towel, placing it around your bra strap area.
  • Spread your arms out with your elbows touching the ground and your palms facing the ceiling.
  • Inhale deeply and as you exhale let your body push your body towards to the rolled towel.
  • Repeat this 10 times. Be careful not to overstrain any of these movements.

Bend Forward

  • Stand straight and keep your hands behind your back. Try to hold your left arm’s elbow with the right hand and your right arm’s elbow with your left hand.
  • Slowly inhale then bend forward while exhaling.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds.
  • Exhale from your mouth while returning to standing position.
  • Repeat this 10 times. Be careful not to overstrain any of these movements.

Stretch Forward

  • Stand with your legs hip-width apart.
  • Hold a towel or band and stretch your arms in front of you
  • Keep your hands a little more than shoulder-distance apart.
  • Inhale while raising your arms up
  • Exhale while bringing your arms down.
  • Repeat this 10 times. Be careful not to overstrain any of these movements.


For further advice see:

Australian Breastfeeding Association

Australian Physiotherapy Association


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