Breastfeeding Tips & Tricks

As you enter into parenthood, there seem to be a million different choices to make. Some of them start early, like will you find out the baby’s gender or wait for a surprise? Will you share names or keep them secret? Others you research meticulously like the best car seat or how to do baby-led leaning or which stroller does the most things for the best price.

Breastfeeding is another choice a mother is faced with. To breastfeed or not? If you choose to breastfeed, you might be surprised at how exactly it impacts your body. As a pelvic floor physical therapist, I see lots of new moms with upper back and neck pain that can often be linked back to their nursing habits.

Most sources estimate that breasts gain 1-3lbs during pregnancy, and that number can be even higher while nursing due to milk supply!1 That’s a significant change to your body’s structure in a very short period of time! So, it’s not surprising you might be feeling some aches or pains as you and your child start this journey together. Here are some recommendations to help avoid pain in the postpartum period.

  • Always try your best to bring baby to breast, not your breast to your baby. This allows you to get into a good nursing position.
  • Nurse reclined. Sitting leaning back on the couch or chair allows you to relax fully and bring the baby to the breast more easily.
  • If you do nurse in a sitting posture, do a tension check as you nurse. Are you lifting your shoulder gently on the right side so the left breast reaches the baby better? Are you always turning to look down at your baby? Do you have tension in your jaw as you work through getting a good latch? I often find that mamas have a position of comfort to nurse in that is just a little asymmetrical, so doing this for hours a day (nursing a baby for a year is more than a full-time job!) can lead to an increase in neck and upper back tension. Take a deep breath and let go of tension as you nurse.
  • Purchase a supportive bra. Your breasts have grown in size likely from pregnancy, but certainly, as your milk supplies increase and your baby grows. It is important that this extra weight is well supported to keep strain off the upper back. This can also help to prevent mastitis, as well.
  • Utilize a breastfeeding support pillow. Regular pillows can work too, but pillows made specifically for nursing, like the Boppy or My Brest Friend, can offer more support so you can bring your baby to your breast.
  • Good, supportive posture while breastfeeding can also help to reduce your risk of clogged ducts. But if this does happen to you, physical therapy can be helpful to eliminate the clogged duct with the use of ultrasound.

If you’re still finding yourself with some neck or upper back aching, try these three stretches to relax the neck, chest, and upper back.

Upper trap stretch

Gently bring your ear to your shoulder and stretch for 20-30 seconds. Alternate sides and complete 3 repetitions per side, after each nursing session


Open book stretch

You should feel a stretch in your chest as well as some tension release in your upper back. Hold 5-10 seconds and repeat 10 repetitions per side before switching sides.

Thread the needle

This should feel really good between your shoulder blades. Hold 5-10 seconds and repeat for 5 repetitions per side.

If you’re still having some challenges, always feel welcome to reach out to us at 616.256.8679 or to one of our clinics to schedule an appointment.


  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-weight-gain/art-20044360

Learn More About
the Author

Amanda Collins, DPT