Enhance meal time with movement!

Breastfeeding can be a wonderful bonding experience for new moms and their little ones. Unfortunately, this can result in aches and pains in their chest, neck, back and shoulders. I see a lot of women in my practice with some level of discomfort in these areas as the primary reason for treatment. While massage therapy is a great way to address these aches and pain, there are also things one can do in their daily life to relieve this tension. Even if you aren’t breastfeeding, the information below can be helpful in managing tension throughout the body.

Aches and pains in the body can be brought about by a number of reasons. But knowing how the body works can help to address the many things we do to disrupt ideal functions within the tissue. A muscle has a ideal length for it to work within. However due to external forces, like statically holding your child during breastfeeding, certain tissues can become chronically shortened. When tissues becomes short from prolonged contraction, it can cause opposing muscles to be over stretched leading to sore and weak muscles. So how do we combat this imbalance?

First off, get these muscles moving! Human beings are meant to move. A healthy body needs constant circulation, and it is really the stimulation of the tissues through movement that pushes blood throughout the body. If muscles are being overused they can become damaged, causing pain and sensitivity. Getting fresh, circulating blood into these areas is of paramount importance. Slow, controlled movements work best in the long run, so take some time with your movements.

Secondly, it’s important to know what it feels like for these muscles to be in a relaxed state. After spending so much time in contraction, it’s hard to remember what it feels like when relaxed. Try shaking it out and move in patterns opposite to the offending activity. Then take a few moments to note how your neck, your jaw, and your shoulders feel; how deep and easy your breathing is. Thoroughly assess this feeling of calm in your body. You don’t have to sit with this for too long, even just a few moments will do. The catch is to try and do it often. The goal is to make this a habit. The more often you can bring yourself to this state the better.

Thirdly, address the causes for these constant states of contraction and find adjustments to incorporate small moments of movement into your day. For example, open your chest and neck with a doorway stretch on one arm, while holding your little one in the other, then switch. After a particularly long meal for your little one, take a moment to remember the feeling of relaxation, taking a few breaths with this in mind - if there is time, roll your shoulders up and back a few times and move your arms around in big circles being mindful of your shoulder blades. Anything you can work into your daily routine that gets all your muscles moving.

One last thing to consider, is the length of time for each meal. Katy Bowman, a biomechanical scientist, addressed this in a recent blog post titled Apple Boobs:

“Like exercise, there is a physiological difference between doing 10 repetitions thirty times a day — 300 reps — and doing three sets of 100 reps — also 300 reps. The body would adapt differently under these conditions. Many H-G [hunter-gatherer] populations nurse 1-2 minutes only, but multiple times an hour. And it just occurred to me that a lot of women’s aches and pains while nursing probably have more to do with being in a weird position for 20 minutes than for only three or four.”

Being mindful of how we use our body and how much we move it comes with time and practice. Taking a few moments each day can slowly build to a lifetime of health and wellness.

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