No matter whether you breast feed, bottle feed or chest feed your baby, it can be a truly beautiful experience.
As you sit back on the sofa with your soft, warm baby who begins to keenly nuzzle in, you feel the unmistakable rush of the love-hormone (Oxytocin). This helps you to relax and surrender to the stillness and deep nurturing of your tiny little being.
However, the hours upon hours that a new mama (or parent) spends feeding her newborn – no matter how she feeds her baby – can wreak havoc on their neck and shoulders.
A very common postnatal complaint is aching neck and shoulders that is most often caused by the rounded (kyphotic) posture that the mother adopts as she nurses her baby.
Yoga can help, with these simple counter-poses
By taking regular breaks in the day to stretch out her neck and shoulders with what I call, ‘the breastfeeding counter-poses’, a new parent can feel some relief in her tight, aching neck and shoulders. It will also help to deepen her breathing and give a boost in her overall energy and mood.
Regularly stretch and loosen the neck area with simple chin-to chest, side-to-side and lateral neck stretches – breathe deeply as you hold each stretch, focusing on softening the neck and trapezius muscles (the muscles along the top of the shoulders) as you breathe out.
Also, try hanging and relaxing the head and neck completely in Uttanasana (standing forward-fold) and then rolling up through the spine to standing, with the knees bent and the head heavy and rolling up last. If you scoop the abdomen to the spine and engage the pelvic floor at the same time in this rolling up movement, you’ll also gently tone the core and support the lower back.
Shoulder and Chest Stretches
To stretch the shoulders and create more space in the front and back of the chest, practice Gomukasana (cow-face pose) and Garudasana (eagle pose) regularly.
Another effective stretch is to simply clasp the hands behind the back and bend forward a little way, as you lift your hands away from you, rolling your shoulders back, breathing deeply into the chest and frontal lungs.
A terrific stretch for the pectorals, which become tight and short from kyphotic-breastfeeding posture, is the Clock Stretch at the wall. For this posture stand a foot or so away from the wall with your left-hip facing the wall. Raise your left arm and place your left hand on the wall to the ’12 o’clock position’ on an imaginary clock-face. Make sure your feet are parallel and you have a sense of neutral spine with your naval drawing gently back towards your spine, and both shoulders relaxed and down.
Breathe into the left lung and rib-cage and feel the stretch right down the left side of your body. Simultaneously reach up into the left hand while also drawing the left should-blade down the back, so that the left shoulder stays down.
After a few breaths, move the hand to the 11 o’clock position on your imaginary clock-face. Keep extending through the elbow and press the whole palm, including the base of the thumb into the wall.
Again, there’s a sensation of co-contracting, as you cultivate a feeling of extending up and away through that hand, yet at the same time drawing the shoulder down – it’s as if you want to drag the hand down the wall, but it won’t move. Breathe here for several cycles. Then, move the hand to the 10 o’clock position, hold for several breaths, and finish in the same way with the hand in the 9 o’clock position. This is usually the deepest stretch, but if you feel you want even more stretch, you can gently turn your chest away from the wall.
Repeat the whole sequence on the other side, with your right hip into the wall, working through the 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock, 2,o’clock, and 3 o’clock positions.
Finish your Breastfeeding Counter-Pose session with a passive chest-opening back bend, like Supported Bridge Pose.
As you stay here for as long as you’re comfortable – anywhere from 2 – 10 minutes – breathe deeply into the space you’ve created around the front of the chest, as well as into the side ribs, allowing the shoulders and head to be heavy and relaxed into the floor.
Ana Davis, Founder and Creative Director of Bliss Baby Yoga, has a passion for a feminine approach to yoga and supporting women with yoga through all ages and stages of their life. Ana is the author of the popular book, “Moving with the Moon – Yoga, Movement and Meditation for Every Phase of Your Menstrual Cycle and Beyond”. Ana has collaborated with Bliss Baby Yoga fertility specialist yoga teacher Rosie Matheson to create our Online Level 1 Yoga for Fertility Teacher Training. She is also the lead trainer on our popular Online Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training Course and Online L1 & L2 Restorative Yoga Teacher Training courses, and offers private mentoring and yoga sessions online, and online yoga classes.
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