Yoga and Breastfeeding
I hope this will encourage mothers to post information in the post natal Yoga section.
The first few weeks of a baby's life are the most magical and difficult time for a new parent. Establishing breastfeeding can be particularly challenging for a new mother. Surrounded by messages of how breast is best, she can know intellectually that nursing is the best thing for a baby, yet be astonished that something natural can be so challenging.
The act of breastfeeding for a mother is deeply satisfying, but it requires physical and emotional work. Many mothers require 500 or more additional calories per day while nursing. As she gets accustomed to feeding her baby every two hours, supporting eight to twelve pound babies in any arm position is exhausting. Yoga can help with the aches and pains that come with this very real workout.
Carrying a baby can put strain on the upper body, especially the back, shoulder blades and triceps. Once a doctor has given the mother permission to resume light exercise, here are some asanas to help ease into this new part of life.
Garudasana, or Eagle pose, using just the arm position
Gormukhasana or Cow Face pose
Vrikshasana or Tree pose
Prasarita Padottanasana or Wide-legged Forward Bend, with arms interlocked behind the back
Bhujangasana or Cobra pose
Marjariasana or Cat-Cow pose- this pose is especially helpful in releasing the strain that mothers feel from hunching to feed a baby.
Jumping or strenuous poses are to be avoided, as well as any strong twisting poses. Iyengar Yoga teacher Sheila Haswell recommends against strong backbends, as they can reduce lactation.
Just as important as the physical stretching, is the time and self-care of Yoga. The sheer demands of a newborn can be overwhelming, and nursing mothers in particular are vulnerable to the feeling that their body is not their own. Taking five minutes every day, even in the bathroom on the floor, to do some stretches and repeat a mantra that is meaningful can help a mother feel that her tasks are manageable.
Drinking plenty of water is necessary for breastfeeding and should be done before any light Yoga practice. Trying to maintain good posture while nursing and remembering to bring the baby to the breast, rather than leaning down to feed the baby, will help reduce strain over time. The immunity boost of Yoga is powerful protection for mother and baby during this time.