Tips on how to manage back pain after birth

It’s common to struggle with back pain after giving birth

If you just can’t find a position to nurse/feed/carry your little one that doesn’t hurt, how do you actually get anything done when that new baby is on you ALL THE TIME?   Not only that, but you are constantly exhausted.  In this blog post I am going to share with you how to manage back pain after birth; what you should do to look after your back not only to reduce aches and pains but to support your recovery in the 4th trimester (yes it’s a thing).

Your body has gone through SO much during pregnancy

  • Ligaments have loosened
  • Bones have spread
  • Nerves have been irritated
  • Muscles stretched
  • Weight shifted
  • Hormones yoyo’ed
  • Posture changed

About 72% of women complain of back pain directly after birth

But did you know that just under 40% of women still have pain at 18months?  Pain has an effect on your mood, sleep and ability to care for yourself and baby!

Proper care, recovery, healing and support in the 4th trimester (the 12 weeks after your baby is born) is vitally important for your wellbeing now and in the long term.  Just imagine still having back pain when your little one is 18months old!

“Postural changes of pregnancy occur over nine months.  Postural postpartum changes take place over just a few hours.”  Let’s get into the basics of how to keep your back as happy as possible once baby has arrived.

Learning how to hold and support your baby in a comfortable position requires coordination and patience.  Feeding a newborn can take up to 10-12 hours (or more) of your day.

Feeding tips

  • Be supported – nurse baba in a great supportive chair with arm rests, preferably high back and invest in a breastfeeding pillow.
  • Look up – it’s easy to want to look down on your baby all the time, for many good reasons.  However when we look down for an entire feeding session, our heads get heavy.  It pulls on your neck muscles and causes discomfort after repeated sessions.  Prevent neck pain, upper back aches and headaches by looking up every few minutes and do basic neck stretches.
  • Loosen up – relax your mind and body.  It’s easy to tense up as you try to hold your baby in the perfect position. Often times you don’t realise just how tense you are until the session is over.
  • Change it up – you may already have your go-to nursing position that works for you.  However, try change it up as much as you can to avoid chronic stiffness and pain from holding the same position day in and out.
  • Baby wearing – need free hands but still want to breastfeed?   A baby carrier is a great option (read below – best ways to carry baby).

Another big strain on the back is carrying your little one, and in those first 12 weeks, they want nothing else but to be right on top of you 24/7 and the biggest obstacle to carrying a baby is the frequent necessity of one free hand.  Throwing that baby on one hip or constantly holding the baby on your non-dominant side can set you up for a future of aching.

Best ways to carry baby

  • Cross-body hold – this allows for one free hand while allowing you to keep a neutral upright spine, proper activation of your core and offers baby full support.
  • Inward facing midline – A baby snuggled right up to your chest with their spine parallel to yours is a great hold, it is ideal for transferring baby from car seat to house or when baby is sleeping and you are choosing to get some extra skin to skin or close contact time.
  • Baby wearing – two FREE hands! Some babies love to be worn and some don’t.  I encourage you to try different types of carriers to determine what works best for you AND baby.  Before a baby can sit on their own, she or he should be worn facing inward on the front.  After an unassisted sit, babe can face outward on their back or front.

Your body has done the incredibly challenging work of growing a baby and giving birth, and now you must recover while potentially nourishing your baby (if you have so chosen and are able to breastfeed).  The transition from pregnant to postpartum brings some dramatic changes and challenges that affect energy and nutrient needs.  (Note:- If you are struggling with excessive fatigue, it is essential to have your nutrient levels checked.)

How to improve recovery and heal fatigue

  • Eat enough nutrient-dense and high-calorie foods – no, not dohnuts and pasta.  Things like raw nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs, sweet potato, bananas, fruit and veg.  Let smoothies be your friend, you can pop anything into them.  If you are unsure about specific foods or your doctor has mentioned any deficiencies consult with a nutritionist or dietician.
  • Rest when your baby rests – fight the urge to “get things done” when baby sleeps.  Rest is critical so get used to cat naps (15-20min naps), or if you don’t consider yourself a napper listen to guided meditation (Insight Timer – free app).
  • Nourishing movement – movement stimulates your spine to send energising signals to your brain.  Movement does not have to be sweaty or happen in a gym.  Consider baby wearing walks, gentle yoga at home or any movement you find pleasurable.  You should feel energised when you are done, not more depleted. (Tip: small movements throughout the day are more beneficial than 30min / 1 hr of movement once a day which might drain you.)

If you are reading this and living in the postpartum haze, be kind to yourself and treat this precious time with tenderness.  Here’s to snuggles, free hands and less back pain after birth.

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