Shoulder, Neck and Spine release for Breastfeeding Mamas

If you’re new to motherhood then the chances are you’re feeling a little tight in your upper back and shoulders…Motherhood is hard work and we hear from Mums all the time that they never expected such a high level of physicality from their new Mama duties: from negotiating yourself out of the depths of the sofa with bub in arms, to transferring your little one from pram to car seat, not to mention all of the lifting (with a weight that’s always getting heavier!)

It’s nearing the end of World Breastfeeding Week, and as a Pilates and movement studio we thought we should bring you a few ways to bring a little more 3-dimensional movement into your shoulders, neck and spine on a daily basis and help balance out all the lifting and feeding. The series of exercises shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes. It’s not much- but if you do the sequence 2-3 times a day after feeding, then you’ve got yourself the beginnings of a neat little self-care regime, and you’ll have a better chance of maintaining strength as your baby grows!

Shoulder Rolls

  • Inhale: Roll both shoulders up to your ears.
    Exhale: Roll them back & down again. Repeat x10.

  • Tip your head to one side & do the shoulder rolls on the opposite side. Repeat x 10 each side.

This one can be done just about anywhere and is best done with nice long slow breaths.

Mermaid

  • Sitting crosslegged on the floor, reach both arms out wide: Place one hand on the floor & reach the other hand overhead, creating a side stretch.

  • Stay and breathe here for a moment and then tip over to the other side. Repeat x5 each side.

You can also do this sitting on the edge of the couch with feet on the floor.

Passive Chest Opener

  • Roll up a couple of towels and rest your shoulder blades on them. Place hands behind your head like a basket, and bend your legs.

  • Stretch your spine backwards, let your elbows fall out to the side and stay here for 10 breaths.

This stretch is NOT suitable for Mamas with an abdominal separation.

Chest Opener

In each of these stretches the focus is on breathing- once in position for your chosen stretch, try to breathe three dimensionally into your whole waist & ribcage, and relax as much as possible on your breath out. Repeat for x10 Breaths.

  • Version 1: Kneeling with your bottom rested on your heels: Stretch your arms forward, then rest your head & chest down on the floor.

  • Version 2: From the first stretch bend your elbows & place them at your upper back, lift your bottom into the air & allow your chest to sink forward to the floor.

  • Version 3: Standing, press your hands on a wall or on the kitchen counter & lean your bottom back into a squat. (Really stick your bottom out with this one.)

Book Openings

  • Lie on one side, with your head supported with a towel or pillow, legs bent & arms reaching forward.

  • Lift your top arm up, then turn your spine & chest to face the ceiling. Keep your knees together & do some breathing in the stretch.

  • Roll your spine forward & close the arms to finish. Repeat x5 each side.

Make sure not to let your arm hang off your shoulder here, think of creating width across the front and the back of your chest.

It's All in the Hips

Here’s an absolutely magical glute stretch.... It can be done sitting on the edge of the bed or the bath, at your desk, lying on your back with your feet on the wall (or rested on the couch)- there’s no excuse not to indulge really!

Benefits

Stretching the gluteals will open up the back of the hip and relieve tension in the lower back and sacrum, free up the legs, AND it feels oh SO good!

Who's it for?

There’s not many people who wont benefit from this stretch but it’s best to avoid if you have a suspected hip tendinopathy. Take special care to keep the spine in neutral if you have low bone density or osteoporosis of the spine, and if you’re in the second or third trimester of pregnancy then it’s safer to do the stretch from a seated position.

How?

  • Lie on your back or sit high on your sitting bones and cross your left ankle over your right knee. 
  • Rest your right foot on a wall or on another surface and use your left hand to gently push your knee away from you to feel the stretch.
  • If you’re feeling a bit like a twisted pretzel then move away from the wall to decrease the stretch a little, if in the sitting position you should sit on something a little higher.
  • Take care to keep your spine in neutral and keep equal weight across both hips

Spend thirty seconds to a minute on each hip and take the time to do some deep belly breathing (see our last post below) which will increase circulation, relax the body and help rid the body of lactic acid build up as you stretch. Your body will thank you for this one, enjoy!

Rachael Sheridan

Create the same shape with your legs from the seated position.

Create the same shape with your legs from the seated position.