Congratulations on your baby! This is going to be a time of wonder, a time of joy…and a time spent mostly sitting down. That’s right. Mothers of newborns can spend up to 11-14 hours a day in the nursing position!
During our core rehab programs at The Tummy Team, we will focus on all the aspects of your life. What you do throughout the day and how you do it matters tremendously. Because we work with so many new moms, it is crucial that we address their nursing (baby feeding) position. While this blog will continue to refer to nursing, the tips still apply to moms who bottle feed.
In reality, every mom at any stage deserves a throne for the hard work she does every day. As a nursing mother, it’s a must! The throne isn’t just about much-deserved comfort; it’s about correct posture, which tends to be a bigger issue for nursing mothers but can still impact moms who bottle feed. For example, when using a bottle, we don’t switch sides as often and use just our dominant side to hold the baby. When this happens one side tends to get very tight. Try to alternate the baby side to side even if you are bottle feeding.
While a mother can theoretically nurse anywhere, most moms will sit in the same place about 90% of the time. Not all of these places and positions are good for your posture and can cause aches and pains – which you’ve got plenty of from labor.
Couches, for example, can be terrible for your posture. They are too deep, too soft, and pull you into a slumped position. Boppy pillows are often too low and cause you to be hunched. Breast Friends sometimes put you in a position without good back support. While side-lying postures can be great, it doesn’t work for everyone and is not always practical if you have other kiddos running around.
What we are aiming to do during your core rehabilitation is help you get into and maintain a neutral and balanced alignment – yes, even while nursing. Your pelvis and rib cage should be aligned and your core able to elongate and activate as needed to hold you up. Our basic instruction in what we call “active sitting” looks similar to the image on the left.
Obviously, there is more involved when you consider having a baby in your arms, and a baby to breast position. But let’s start with the basics. First, we look at sitting on your “sit bones” (the bones under your thighs) with lumbar support and back support and having your feet be able to touch the floor or a small stool. From this basic understanding, you can build yourself a nice nursing throne.
How To Create A Nursing Throne
Step 1: Location
Your throne needs to be where you want to sit most of the time, typically in the main family room/living room. If you have a great seat but it is in the nursery and you never nurse in there, then you need to consider moving the throne to where you will use it 90% of the time.
Step 2: Selection
Find the best chair in your house to help you have an active sitting alignment. Look for a fairly firm seat, upright back and preferably a high back (all the way to support your head if possible). If you have a rocking chair, glider, or even a dining room chair that works best, move it to the best location.
You may even need to create this spot if you have nothing that seems to immediately work. If you are short or your surfaces are deep have a pillow (or 2) behind you. The corner of the
couch sitting cross-legged may work if you can get on your sit bones. Lumbar support or squishy pillow can help for your low back.
Play around (not when the baby is crying and starving) with different chairs you may have in your house. Even something that doesn’t seem comfortable, if set up correctly, may become your new favorite nursing throne.
Step 3: Props
To prop the baby up, most people need a pillow or 2 even under a Boppy. You naturally flex forward for the latch but no one wants to stay in that position. You want to be able to sit back and up with the baby’s weight fully supported by the pillows, not by straining your arms.
Next add a side table with all your stuff – nipple cream, burp cloths, water, snacks, phone, pacifier, etc. You are on your throne and shouldn’t need to get up for anything.
Keep this throne set up so it is there when you need it. Oh, and by the way, the nursing throne is the perfect place to do your Tummy Team rehab exercises. How convenient.
A glider can be good, but some moms will need a pillow in the back to keep them from slumping, or lumbar support to help you stay on your sit bones. Note how the extra pillow, Boppy, and side table are all set up so you have what you need when you need it. I also like the neck pillow, especially for night feeding to support your neck so you can rest and drift in and out of sleep without your neck killing you.
Sitting in the nursing throne without a baby, you can see how high the pillow would prop the baby up. This way the weight of the baby would be completely supported by the pillow, not your arms. Also, try to keep your elbow close to your sides to help you stay upright and elongated, not a rounded posture.
As an alternate chair option, this is an inexpensive chair from IKEA with an added lumbar support on it. This is a good option for a nighttime nursing throne in your bedroom. Propping up in bed will hurt your back very quickly. If you can side-lie to nurse in bed, that is your best bed nursing alignment. Otherwise, you need to get out of bed to nurse, in which case an alternate option like this is ideal. Getting up and out of bed can also help you have a beginning and end to the feeding time, rather than the snacking-sleeping-snacking pattern that often happens in bed. It is up to you and your sleep training/parenting choices.
This is a posture I see moms use often. Even though she looks comfortable, her body is in a collapsed position with her tail tucked. It is impossible to activate the core in this posture. Eleven to fourteen hours a day of this, or similar collapsed postures, can create chronic low back pain, mid back pain (bra strap area), and a slow to heal core with increasing pressure out and down on the pelvic floor and the intestinal tract.
Why Do You Need to Consider Your Nursing Position?
Motherhood is very physically demanding, even more so after a long labor with a deflated and inactive core. Consider the constant mothering positions: baby cradling, flexing and rounding for nursing, carrying babies on the hip, reaching in and out of cribs, carrying the baby in infant carriers, lifting strollers and car seats and lugging baby bags and portable cribs. All of this while continuing to care for the rest of the family is exhausting. Not to mention the lack of sleep, birth recovery, and literally having most of your nutrition sucked out of you.
We work with hundreds of clients who have chronic pain and feel depressed and overwhelmed by these physical demands as well as the emotional demands of motherhood. There is so much joy to be had in this time but when your body is hurting, you can miss out on that joy. We want you to have a beautiful mothering experience. We aim to make this time easier and help mothers feel more successful and eliminate pain. Remember this: whatever you do the most wins. If you are sitting in a slumped and collapsed posture 11-14 hours a day, the pain will win. If you learn to activate your core and sit elongated, strength wins. While it is difficult to undo that amount of neglect, if you set yourself up for success you can start feeling better immediately.
The Tummy Team can help you systematically rebuild your core, eliminate pain from muscle imbalance, heal diastasis recti and regain your pre-baby self. Let us help you gain a stronger core for the life you were meant to live. Find out more by visiting TheTummyTeam.com and take a look at our Core Foundations course to learn how you can restore your core postpartum.