I recall the not too distant days of being a breastfeeding mom. In fact, I spent the better part of 5 years as a nursing mom.
During that time I learned a tremendous amount, not just about living and breathing my new life as a mom, but how I could help all new mothers through that time. As a physical therapist and women's health specialist in medical therapeutic yoga, as well as a mother, I can attest to how much (more) you need yoga during the season of new motherhood.
If you have never tried yoga and you are a new mom, now is a great time to begin a yoga practice. It helped me cope with the drastic life change of new mothering, as well as mind and body aches and pains, sleep deprivation, and the emotional mood swings associated with the seismic hormonal and biochemical changes. That is a scary mouthful of issues, but in simple terms - here are 7 reasons why you need yoga more than ever if you are a breastfeeding mom:
- Encourages bonding with your little one.
Some of my greatest memories of new motherhood is enjoying yoga with each of my sons (before and after they were born). For example, I felt my son kick for the first time while I was teaching a restorative yoga class.
Yoga teaches you to slow down and intimately feel the subtle energy of life. For me, that meant intimately tuning in to the life that was growing inside me. I might have not felt his kicks until much later if I had not deliberately slowed down and connected with myself and him. Yoga increases your mind/body awareness and helps you connect to your surroundings - internally and externally.
The same is true during the early months of breastfeeding. Enjoy a moderate yoga practice that is right for you, perhaps 15-30 minutes. I would bring my mat next to my son's play blanket and practice yoga. Then - take cues from your infant. When he or she is hungry - you can nurse and still finish your yoga practice with an extended corpse pose in side-lying. It is a wonderful time to bond with your little one and for me holds some of my best nursing memories.
- Balances mind/body health and helps moms deal with postpartum depressive symptoms.
Postpartum depression has been increasingly on the rise virtually since women returned in force to the workplace - taking less breaks in their careers to have children. As a result, women are faced with greater stressors than any previous generation. Yoga breath techniques and postures have been shown to help with depressive symptoms - in everyone and especially in postpartum moms. Cultivating self help techniques through yoga can help you not only manage - but pick up on signs of depression before they escalate.
- Helps heal musculoskeletal aches, pains, and imbalances that can result from breastfeeding.
I was able to heal many of my own aches and pains - many which result directly from pregnancy and breastfeeding. They can include: arm pain and/or tendonitis, back pain, headaches, neck pain, nerve impingement in the spine, upper and lower extremities, TMJ syndrome, and muscle spasms in the shoulders, neck, and back.
I actually felt all of the above with one or both of my pregnancies - and it has made me a better practitioner and more compassionate listener. I have been successfully combining medical yoga with physical therapy techniques to resolve these aches and pains since that time.
- Elongates muscles that are shortened as a result of breastfeeding.
There are at least 8 different muscle and muscle groups shortened through the repetitive action of holding an infant during breastfeeding. As your infant grows (thanks to you mom!), learning how to hold them to nurse gets increasingly difficult. Yoga can teach you how to find and maintain a good standing and seated posture, which you need to keep while breastfeeding. Another added benefit: I built a fantastic, lean set of biceps while trying to maintain a good breastfeeding posture.
- Prevents Repetitive Stress Syndromes (RSS) caused by breastfeeding.
Shortened muscle groups can contribute to longstanding injury via repetitive stress (holding a growing infant during nursing), so the most important factor in preventing injury is maintaining a good sitting posture.
Some of the RSS are: carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff impingement, tendonitis at the shoulder, elbow, wrist, or hand, headaches, low back pain, mid back pain, or neck pain.
Postpartum Yoga can help prevent and treat these syndromes, especially when combined with conventional physical therapy techniques.
- Strengthens and tones muscles that are weak, tight, and flabby - carry overs that naturally occur from being pregnant.
Oh, there is a laundry list of muscles which fall under this category after pregnancy. (can I get an amen from all the moms out there?!) To start - there are the abdominals, thigh and "posterior" muscles, and let's not forget the ever important pelvic floor (kegels anyone?).
I attribute my recovery (let's face it, getting your shape back after pregnancy is NOT for whimps) from pregnancy solely to my self prescribed therapeutic yoga. However, any new mom can have access to my methods through my upcoming book, Fit and Fearless Birth. In the meantime, you can seek out a postpartum yoga class, physical therapist, or practitioner trained in both (the best choice) east/west medicine to help you get started.
- Boosts body confidence and self image.
There is no doubt that yoga helps all women improve self esteem and trust of their body. Yoga not only helped me birth naturally, but I have used it to help myself and many other mothers during the long, beautiful road of breastfeeding.