World Breastfeeding Week is coming to a close, ya’ll! So, let’s celebrate breastfeeding, then talk about how to make sure your body doesn’t pay a premium for it by learning some really yummy yoga stretches for breastfeeding moms.
There are so many good things about breastfeeding: It makes the baby stop crying and sometimes even go to sleep! It gives you an excuse to get out of things you don’t want to do (I’m sorry, guys. I have to get home to my baby. She’s probably REALLY hungry by now.). It gives you extra snuggle time with your cute and cuddly baby. It reduces your risk of cancer, while it could potentially raise your baby’s IQ. (Though, a higher IQ for your baby might be a pain in the ass when he’s a toddler and/or teenager and he uses his brains to outsmart you and get into all kinds of trouble. On the bright side, however, it could also help him land a great job someday so he can put you up in a really nice retirement home.)
Anyway, I think we all know about all the benefits of breastfeeding (people REALLY like to talk about that, don’t they?), so let’s move on.
See also So You Wanna Be a Yoga Mama?
The truth is, breastfeeding can also be a pretty big hardship for mamas. It’s super time consuming. Sometimes it’s socially awkward because people are STILL uncomfortable with you getting your boob out in the middle of a shopping mall (this is changing slowly, but it’s still an issue). It might require you to be away from your job more than you’d like so you can pump, and pump…. and pump. AND holding that baby up to your bosom for hours on end every day kind of wreaks havoc on your body. Yes, it might result in sore breasts today and saggy boobs later, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about how it makes your chest and your shoulders tight and your neck tense, and uncomfortable. Many a breastfeeding mama has found herself in a hunched over position even when she’s not with her babe.
There may be a lot of support for breastfeeding moms these days to help them with latching, pumps, bottles, and nursing bras, but there really isn’t enough help for breastfeeding moms (or formula feeding moms, dads, babysitters, or anyone else who spends hours holding one of those demanding bundles of joy all day) to help them bring their bodies back into balance.
It’s OK, though. I know tons of yoga stretches for breastfeeding that will help you open your chest, stretch your shoulders, and ease tension in your neck and shoulders—all things that tend to be exacerbated from lots of baby holding.
5 Yoga Stretches for Breastfeeding Moms
(And Anyone Else Who Holds a Baby a Lot, Too!)
This isn’t technically a yoga pose, per se, but it works. Sit up tall and make sure you have plenty of room around you. Then, quickly swing your arms in front of your chest, out to the sides, and behind you. Alternate which hand is on top when your arms are in front of you. Sometimes it just feels good to move those arms around after they’ve been holding a baby for hours on end.
Shoulder + Chest Stretch with a Strap
Hold a strap out in front of you with your hands at bit wider than your shoulders. Keep your elbows straight, and, inhaling, lift the strap up and over your head. Exhale lower the strap behind you. When you get to a
Backpack Strap Opener
Bring your strap behind you, across the bottom tips of your shoulder blades. Then, bring both sides under your arms and loop them over your shoulders like backpack straps. Find the ends and criss cross them behind you. Hold the ends of the straps loosely in your hands while you gently pull them forward and down. For me, this is instant relief from tense shoulders.
Shoulder + Chest Stretch at a Wall
Stand facing a wall a few inches away. Bring your right forearm to rest on the wall with your elbow at the level of your shoulder and your fingertips pointing toward the ceiling. Take a big breath in. With an exhale turn your body to the left so your hips and toes point toward a different wall. Stay here and breathe. Then, repeat on the other side.
Gentle Backbend Over Blocks
When baby is napping, it might feel like you’re opportunity to do All. The. Things. I remember this feeling. But during those early months, especially, you’d probably benefit more from resting and taking care of YOU instead. This is my favorite way to do this, especially if you know you might only have a few minutes. You’ll need two yoga blocks. Put both blocks at the medium height to start. Lay down over the blocks so that one block supports your shoulder blades and the other supports your head. Legs can be extended out in front of you, knees bent with your feet on the floor, or soles of the feet touching in Supta Baddha Konasana. Bring your arms to your sides, palms facing up, and just let gravity’s gentle pull open your shoulders and chest. If you feel like you’d like a bigger opening, flip the block under your head to the shortest height or bring your arms overhead.
Did that feel great? You’ll love these shoulder and chest openers, too.
Do you take time to stretch in between feedings? What yoga stretches for breastfeeding have helped you the most?