Mother feeding baby sitting on bed in the bedroom

Moms With Chronic Pain Should Try These 6 Breastfeeding Positions

Often misunderstood and misdiagnosed, chronic pain is commonplace for thousands of American women. For those who are pregnant or raising children, the challenges are immense. And as if living with chronic pain weren’t enough, the toll of parenting on top of it can be debilitating. Complicating things further is the process of breastfeeding. Thankfully, lactation experts have identified six breastfeeding positions for moms with chronic pain.

A 2012 study from The American Pain Society found that 25.3 million adults (11.2%) suffer from daily chronic pain. Irene Cullagh, an RN who has worked with mothers and babies for over 20 years and has been an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) since 2006, tells Romper that moms with chronic pain do have hope.

“There are plenty of pain medications that are compatible with breastfeeding,” she says. “If your chronic pain condition has been treated with a medicine that is not safe for pregnancy, it may be safe for breastfeeding. Some moms with chronic pain conditions go into remission during breastfeeding.” For instance, in some mothers suffering from fibromyalgia, including writer Rita Brhel, hormones released from breastfeeding helped reduce fibromyalgia flares. For others, the pain may not be diminished, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t options for more comfortable breastfeeding positions.

And don’t forget, if you are uncomfortable or unsure the positioning is correct, seek the help of a Lactation specialist.


Try The Cross Cradle

Also called the football or cradle hold, once your baby is latched well, Cullagh says you can insert a small, rolled up blanket or towel for support under baby’s back or shoulder to take the strain off your wrist/hand/arm.


Lie Down

No one says you have to sit while breastfeeding, so lie down. "Side-lying is very comfortable and requires minimal strain to joints/muscles and again utilizing small, rolled blankets behind the baby’s back for support," says Cullagh.


Use The Biological Hold

Also known as "laid-back breastfeeding" or "biological nurturing," this approach encourages your baby to follow their natural instincts and root for their milk source: Lie back with your baby tummy-down on your chest. "Mom is more reclined and baby is belly down diagonal across her body," explains Cullagh. This semi-reclined position allows baby easy access to the breast and might be more comfortable for mama.


Ditch The Nursing Pillow

Okay, so this isn't exactly a position, but it is a useful position-related tip: The U shaped feeding pillows that are commonly suggested for breastfeeding are pretty bulky, Certified Lactation Counselor Danielle Downs tells Romper. "They often position the baby away from the breast, making a deep latch harder to achieve."


Invest In The RIGHT Pillow


On the other hand, the right pillow can make a huge difference. Cullagh suggests using nursing-specific pillows (like Boppy or Breastfriend pillows) or any pillows you have available; the important thing is making sure that the pillow you choose feels right and doesn't make you even more uncomfortable.


Wear A Sling

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"Feeding baby in a sling or wrap to take the weight of the baby off her arms/wrists," says Cullagh. It also means you can nurse while moving around.


Danielle Downs, IBCLC, Certified Lactation Counselor, owner of Oasis Lactation Services

Irene Cullagh, RN and IBCLC

Studies Referenced:

Nahin RL. Estimates of pain prevalence and severity in adults: United States, 2012. Journal of Pain. 2015;16(8):769-780