Optimal Health for Breastfeeding Mamas by Dr. Laura Brayton
As a holistic chiropractor specializing in perinatal and pediatric care, I often get asked about how a new Mama can feel her best while recovering from birth AND providing nourishment for Baby. It is absolutely amazing, as women, how our bodies are perfectly made to create, birth and feed a baby. When the innate intelligence of our body is free of nervous system interference, nature flourishes. However, due to physical, chemical and emotional stresses in our lives on a regular basis, nerve interference can become quite common and often symptomatic.
The question then becomes, how do we deal with these issues?
New mamas can struggle with postural concerns as they navigate the uncharted waters of breastfeeding. The more challenging the latch, the more a mama is hunched over; sweat dripping from her brow, desperately attempting to get her baby to feed. It can be quite stressful and in my practice, I commonly see new mamas with neck and upper back tension related to nursing. They may also be complaining of headaches, sinus congestion, frequent colds, and weakness or tingling in the arms/ hands. Since proper spinal alignment is essential for the proper function of our bodies, it is easy to see how poor posture that creates a forward head carriage and rounded shoulders may create disease in the body.
Proper Alignment is Key
One way to help combat the slumped position for nursing mamas is to bring the baby to your breast, not the breast to the baby. Try different nursing pillows until you find the one that feels the most comfortable for your body type and the size of your baby; I typically recommend My Brest Friend but there are so many on the market to choose from. Working with a lactation consultant can be really helpful in not only assisting with the latch but addressing all of the other components related to nursing, including your posture. Receiving chiropractic adjustments and massage during the post-partum phase can really help alleviate the ongoing tension in your body (and can even help increase milk supply!) and is a component of much-needed mama self-care! At home, you can perform gentle exercises to open up the chest by standing in a doorway with one arm bent at 90 degrees and leaning forward until you feel a comfortable stretch along the front of your shoulder and chest (pec muscle). While holding for thirty seconds, pretend there is a pencil between your shoulder blades and pinch them together so that you are contracting your upper back muscles simultaneously while you stretch the front. Repeat on the other side and make it a habit to perform a few times/day. Upon getting clearance from your doctor/midwife to be able to return to working out (typically at six weeks post-partum), performing seated rows, either with a machine or with stretchy bands, can help strengthen your upper back muscles, like rhomboids and middle/lower traps, which are necessary to hold our bodies upright. Additionally, as you begin to rehab your core muscles, including the pelvic floor which gets a lot of activity from pregnancy and birth, you will be able to sit and stand with improved posture. This is extremely important as the baby grows and inevitably gets heavier, putting additional stress on mama’s back. Having a regular fitness routine is essential mama self-care; whether with the support of a personal trainer who specializes in post-partum bodies, or on your own with a fitness app that allows for a safe re-introduction into working out following birth.
Timing is Everything
How and when you feed your body is so important during the fourth trimester of pregnancy (the first three months post-partum). Proper nutrition is foundational for accelerated healing after giving birth as well as for making optimal breast milk for Baby. Get support with meal planning and preparation so that you have quick, easy and nutritious meals to consume in between feedings, diaper changes and sleep. Freeze soups and casseroles in individualized meal portions for easy defrost and serve options. Eat depending on the season, meaning your body may crave salad and fresh, raw veggies in the summertime, however, the fall/winter season it will prefer warming foods like stews with turmeric and other spices. It goes without saying that the quality of your food is absolutely essential and important for both you and baby. This means you want to avoid processed foods whenever possible and stick to organic, non-GMO foods that are ideally grown locally (which also encourages eating seasonally-appropriate foods) and be sure to consume high amounts of good fats like avocado, coconut oil and wild-caught salmon. Look for grass-fed meats and pastured eggs that are much higher in nutritional quality and are not fed corn or soy (linked to increased inflammation within the body). You may also notice that your baby is uncomfortable or colicky after nursing when you eat certain foods. This may indicate a food intolerance or allergy in your baby and needs to be monitored by the pediatrician, however, common allergenic foods that you may want to eliminate from your diet include pasteurized cow’s milk, gluten, soy and corn. In addition to a clean diet loaded with nutritious foods, it is important to take a high-quality prenatal vitamin for the entirety of your nursing experience to make sure that you are filling in any nutritional gaps that may occur even with the best diet.
Being a new mama is possibly the most amazing experience for women and for those that choose to breastfeed, the love and connection is even more intensified. Ultimately, when Mama consciously practices ongoing self-care for herself, the mama-baby bond benefits. So, be gentle with yourself as you continue along the fantastic journey of motherhood.
To learn more about Dr. Laura Brayton and her practice, visit her website at: http://hobokenchiro.com/