An issue you may encounter while breastfeeding is dealing with back pain. Often it is leftover back pain from pregnancy, labor and birth. This kind of pain usually goes away in a few weeks. Sometimes it is from something else and is chronic. Either way, dealing with back pain is unpleasant and can be down right unbearable while nursing. I have experience with this and have breastfed through back pain with both of my children.
*Disclaimer, this is not intended to be medical advice, but anecdotes based on my own experience breastfeeding with back pain. I hope my tips will be helpful since I have been through it, but always seek medical help when needed.
My experience breastfeeding with back pain
When my daughter was born I had awful upper back pain for weeks after her birth. I recall how uncomfortable breastfeeding seemed to me at the time. Here I was with this tiny baby, but trying to breastfeed her was a painful experience as I hunched over trying to make mouth and nipple connect. I learned to breastfeed with proper positioning and corrected those issues.
When my son was born I was now a breastfeeding pro and really did not have any lingering back pain from the birth. Everything was going along great but when he was about 5 months old I was hit by a car in a parking lot while wearing him in my Ergo (don’t even ask).
I was sore afterwards but it wasn’t unbearable to breastfeed. A couple of weeks later I moved a certain way one night and was left with debilitating back pain. I could not move myself out of a chair or bed, and nursing my son was excruciating. This horrible pain lasted for several days. To the point that I had to have my husband hand my son to me to breastfeed. Eventually I could lift him again myself, but the pain lasted for months before physical therapy helped me move on.
This experience really taught me how to get around that pain so I could continue nursing.
Causes of back pain while breastfeeding
The most typical reason you will have back pain while breastfeeding is leftover pain from pregnancy and birth. Our hormones cause our bodies to loosen and relax in ways that can create pain, and of course labor and birth itself can leave us very sore. The extra weight we are carrying from pregnancy can also have a role. I had a very strange upper back pain after the birth of my daughter that I blamed on the epidural. I don’t know for sure if that was the cause, but it was in the same location. Usually with time and light exercise this kind of back pain will go away.
Another cause of back pain while breastfeeding is improper positioning. It is so important to make sure you are in a supportive and ergonomic position.
Baby wearing should not cause back pain if done properly, but if you are already suffering it may add to it. I love baby wearing and was very sad when I could not wear my son immediately after my accident.
And, of course any other normal cause of back pain can make breastfeeding more difficult. In my case it was an accident, but lifting a baby or heavy stroller can put additional strain on your back as well. Just be careful and be aware of all the additional demands being put on your body.
Tips for Breastfeeding with back pain
Check your position!
Proper positioning while breastfeeding is so important. Check out basic latches and positions here.
Some of the best ones for back pain are the laid back position – where you are leaning back and the baby is on top of your chest, or the side lying position – where you are lying in bed with your baby next to you.
I found sitting up in bed and trying to lean over my baby the most painful. I had to get out of bed and use a chair when my daughter was an infant. When I had my accident with my son, I had to nurse him lying down in bed or while in a supportive chair with tons of pillows to lift him up to me.
Make sure that your back is straight and that you are not leaning over or hunching toward your baby. Hunching will cause the most pain, so if you can lift your baby to your chest that will be a huge help.
Get tools to help!
If you do not want to, or cannot breastfeed in bed, have a good chair available. I used a glider in my baby’s room and a wonderful supportive rocking recliner in my bedroom. Breastfeeding in bed has always been painful for me if I’m not lying down, so I loved having a nice recliner right next to my bed.
Use a nursing stool to give your back that extra support. It doesn’t seem like such a small thing would make a difference but it makes a huge difference. Breastfeeding with my feet flat on the ground was always more painful.
Use a nursing pillow. I used a Boppy Pillow and even bought a travel one to have with me on trips. There are many other wonderful kinds of nursing pillows in addition to the Boppy. Ergobaby has recently come out with one that looks extremely supportive.
And then add more pillows! It was critical when I was in pain that I not only used a nursing pillow around my waist, but that I made sure it was raised up high enough to bring my baby to me. So, if needed add another flat pillow under your nursing pillow. And, if you have a neck or back pillow use that too. I cannot emphasize enough to use ALL the pillows!
Make sure you have supportive and comfortable nursing bras.
Treat back pain
Treat back pain just like you would normally. When breastfeeding you do have to be more aware of medications you are taking but most basic pain relievers are fine. You can always check out LactMed if you are unsure.
Alternate ice and heat. I used a heating pad on my back every night during the worst pain.
Be aware of how you are using your back and how you are sleeping. Try to sleep in the best positions for reducing back pain.
Light stretching and exercise can help your back recover as well. Usually for postpartum back pain this will be all that is needed. Strengthening your core can be very helpful.
Worst case scenario you may need physical therapy or other treatment. I was able to resume baby wearing and all my favorite activities after physical therapy.
Get additional help if needed
When I was in my worst pain my husband was a big help. I would set myself up with pillows or whatever I needed to make sure I could stay still, and he would bring my son to me. Enlist help if needed and do not try to do it all if you are dealing with back pain.
Dealing with back pain while breastfeeding is no joke! It can turn something that should be simple physically into an excruciating experience. Hopefully with the right help and tips the breastfeeding relationship can continue, even during set backs such as back pain. Please let me know, have you dealt with back pain? How did you treat it?