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Q

I have a seven month old baby whom I breast feed and also frequently carry on one side or the other throughout the day. By nighttime, I have pain and burning in my mid-back area. What can I do to help reduce the discomfort?

 
A

What you are describing is very common among new mothers. Let's review the possible reasons for your symptoms. The position of breast-feeding tends to place the mother in a slumped forward posture with the added weight of holding the baby. To reduce the stress on your back I recommend that you make sure your feet are supported. This will help maintain the normal curve of your spine while stabilizing your hips. To avoid a slumped posture, use pillows under the baby to support your baby's weight and under your elbows and forearms during nursing. There are many commercial brands of nursing pillows that you could try, or just use bed or throw pillows. Placing a pillow behind your back can assist in maintaining good posture so that breast feeding can be an enjoyable experience, not a painful one. Carrying and lifting a baby frequently throughout your day can cause burning and aching in your mid- to lower back area. When you hold the baby on one side, it forces the hip to hike upward on that side and the spine to slump forward and sideways. This causes the spine to be held in an awkward strained position. When the weight of your body leans away from the vertical position, your muscles must work overtime to hold your body up and your joints are loaded in an imbalanced way. Obviously a mother will need to lift and hold her baby frequently, but there are techniques you can learn to minimize the stress placed on your back. The spine functions best when it is kept in good form so bend from your knees, not your back, when picking up your baby. If standing for a prolonged period of time in one position, prop one foot on a foot stool. This helps maintain the proper curve of your spine.Keeping your body fit with a walking exercise program, particularly after childbirth, will help your body withstand the strain of carrying your baby. If your symptoms persist, consult with a local physical therapist.

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