Neck Pain from Breastfeeding

Any mom out there knows that the first few weeks/months all your sweet new babe is going to do is eat, sleep, and poop. What I didn’t realize when I became a mom, is how much eating actually goes on. Personally, I had difficulty getting off the couch for the first month, not only because of my significant tear (more on that later), but also because my sweet little baby was a ravenous piranha. He initially had a difficult time latching so I was tied to my breast pump every few hours to make sure he had enough to eat. When I wasn’t pumping, I seemed to be feeding him or feeding myself. After a few weeks and the support of our midwife, lactation consultant, and pediatric dentist, we had him latching well and feeding like a champ.

While I loved nursing my son (cue the tears as we just finished weaning as of this past weekend), it took a physical toll on my body, especially in the beginning when the feedings were longer and more frequent. The hours of nursing (and pumping) left me in a continual state of looking down at him (or my phone) and could really be a pain in the neck. Whether you are breastfeeding, pumping & bottle feeding, or just straight bottle feeding, the accumulated time sitting, hunching over to feed your sweet baby, and looking down can put a lot of strain on your neck muscles leading to Upper Cross Syndrome.

What is Upper Cross Syndrome1? I’m so glad you asked. When your head comes forward, the muscles in the upper muscles in the back of your neck get tight, while the muscles in the front of your neck become lengthened and weak. If we travel down your spine a little bit to your thoracic region, the muscles in your upper back get lengthened and weak, while your chest muscles become tight. When you spend enough time in this position, you can put yourself at greater risk for neck and shoulder pain and injuries now or in the future. 

So, what can you do to fix this? 

  1. Make sure you have proper support for breastfeeding with use of a pillow to bring baby up to your level, instead of hunching over to lower yourself down to baby.
  2. Experiment with different feeding positions. I personally found that a reclined position helped reduce my neck pain, and helped my son control my letdown, especially in the early days. Nursing in sidelying was also great for those middle of the night feeds.
  3. Join my early postpartum recovery program for specific exercise flows to help alleviate neck and upper back pain. APPLY TO BE PART OF THE PILOT PROGRAM
  4. Make an appointment for an ergonomic assessment. I would love to do a virtual ergonomic assessment to help you learn how to set yourself up for success for feeding your baby to avoid neck pain in the future. SCHEDULE HERE
  5. See a physical therapist for a full evaluation and treatment plan of your specific muscle imbalances to treat your neck or upper back pain. If you are in the state of Texas, I would love to set up a complementary phone consult to determine if my services are a good fit for you. SCHEDULE HERE

You are doing a great job Mama!

Xx, Dr. Katie

1. Team HJ, Team HJ, Team T author HJ, author T. Cross syndrome causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment & exercises. Health Jade. March 29, 2020. Accessed May 9, 2024. 

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