hands-free breastfeeding


I am the kind of person that may try almost anything once just see what its about.  I was experiencing some complex spinal issues during my pregnancy, so I was already more worried than the average person about the possibility I would need to get an epidural to cope with the pain during delivery.  We thought about hypnobirthing with the plan in mind that this was supposed to be some kind of magic trick for me to not have to need to get an epidural. Needless to say, Mike Tyson puts it so nicely when he said, “Everybody’s got plans until they get hit.”

Upon my midwife’s recommendation, I met with the anesthesiologist who performed the epidurals in the hospital months prior to my upcoming childbirth to discuss my my particular health situation.  I expressed my concerns about getting an epidural and wanted to know his thoughts. He was a European man with a strong accent and pretty laid back about giving epidurals to anyone who requested one, and told me that it would be very difficult for me to cope with the pain of childbirth without getting an epidural.  He said if I was that serious about not getting an epidural, I should take a hypnobirthing class.

“Hypnobirthing?”  I asked him.  “What is that supposed to do?”  He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well you don’t want an epidural so that’s the next best thing I can tell you to do to help you with the pain when you have your baby. You will definitely need some sort of way of dealing with it.”

I left his office a bit freaked out, thinking  about all this pain I would have to prepare for in childbirth that seemed like it would be a near impossible thing to do without getting drugs.

Although a bit skeptical about the idea of doing hypnobirthing, later that evening, in pre-natal yoga I randomly overheard another pregnant woman raving about how great taking a hypnobirthing class was.

I guess it was meant to be. Four months into the pregnancy, we signed up for a hypnobirthing class. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

The first time we went, we and four other couples looking just as lost as us, curiously walked into the lower level of this woman’s home, took our shoes off, and sat in a dimly lit room with pillows on the floor.

We were then taught about the basics of hypnobirthing and learned a new type of way of using words differently and thinking of the meaning of words differently through the language of hypnobirthing.  In hypnobirthing, the philosophy is you aren’t supposed to use the word “pain”, so we were supposed to instead think of the word “pressure” versus pain every time we would have normally used or spoke the word “pain” and ask others to not use the word pain around us before or during childbirth.   And instead of saying the word “contraction” we were supposed to think of it with a different, more positive connotation of instead using and thinking of the phrase “having a uterine surge”.  Instead of “pushing” the baby out during childbirth we were supposed to be thinking and phrasing it as “breathing the baby down.”

At first it all seemed hard to believe this could ever work, but we decided to keep an open mind.

We met weekly in the same place for a couple of months with the other couples.  We did different breathing and relaxation exercises to became more in tuned with listening to the baby’s cues to be prepared for when it was time for her arrival.

The hypnobirthing leader talked to us about the importance of eating healthy and drinking good water and instructed us to read the Hypnobirthing book. She also asked us to write and talk about a “birth-plan” – everything we wanted and planned our childbirth to be and guided us to share and discuss our birth-plan with all of our healthcare providers as well as to bring copies to the hospital we were planning on having the baby in and ask to have a tour of the facility in advance and share our birth plan in advance with the staff there. The more we attended hypnobirthing classes, the more empowered and excited we were about the upcoming birth of our baby.

We watched videos of all different types of births, some in the water, some at home, some at birthing centers.  It was fascinating to see through other’s experiences how giving birth to a baby could ultimately be viewed as a positive, thrilling experience.

My husband and I were able to laugh with one another during these classes, we also were developing an interesting relationship with the baby before she was even born while she was still inside of me.   We listened to a hypnobirthing relaxation CD every night as we went to sleep.

We became dedicated hypnobirthing soon-to-be parents. However, most of our family members thought what we were learning in hypnobirthing couldn’t possibly change the “pain” of childbirth. They thought there was no way hypnobirthing could ever minimize the “pain” of childbirth. We were taught by the hypnobirthing teacher that there would be naysayers and it was our job to request when someone spoke with us that no stories were to be shared with us about any “painful” birthing experience. It was not really easy because every time we told someone not to tell us about how “painful” “labor” was or “contractions”, they thought it was a big joke and said I couldn’t possibly know what I was about to be “in for” is how they put it.

Despite everyone else’s skepticism, we as a couple, remained strong on our new hypnobirthing philosophies.

When I actually had my baby, my midwife told me afterwards she was amazed at how I seemed to be in a calm, trance-like state the whole time.  She said with all the births she had been part of, she never saw anything like that before, and asked me what I attributed it to.  I told her having my relaxation hypnobirthing CD play the whole time next to the bed while I was in the hospital, I believed somehow helped.  I told her I had been listening to that same CD every night before I went to bed for the past month.

From my perspective, my childbirth was very different than how my midwife saw it. I definitely did not feel like I was in a calm, trance-like state, I’ll put it that way.  To sum up my child birthing experience, I will revisit the quote by Mike Tyson of: “Everybody’s got plans until they get hit.”

But, did I get a beautiful baby at the end of it all?  Yes!

Did it feel great to get that compliment from my midwife after my baby was born? Of course it did and I do attribute any bit of observed calmness from me from when I had my baby to how hypnobirthing helped and positively influenced my childbirth.

Was hypnobirthing some sort of magic trick that made everything a blissful floating-on-a-cloud feeling when I had my baby? Absolutely not.

Do I regret taking hypnobirthing? No, I don’t regret taking hypnobirthing!  I would do it again 10 times over in a heartbeat and wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything else in the world! Hypnobirthing helped us grow together as a couple into the new roles we have now as new parents as well as helped me during my birthing experience.  I would highly recommend hypnobirthing  to any pregnant soon-to-be mom regardless of whether or not they are planning on getting an epidural.


Please see HYPNOBIRTHING. DOES IT REALLY WORK? (PART 2) for what actually happened at my birth.

12 Tips to Help Reduce Back Pain While Breastfeeding a Newborn

Some women seem to have no trouble breastfeeding their newborn child.  They could breastfeed doing a handstand and never claim discomfort even for a minute.  That wasn’t me.  I had bad back problems before, during, and after my pregnancy.

Sitting to breastfeed a newborn, as awesome as the experience itself was, seemed to aggravate my back repeatedly in all of the suggested breastfeeding positions. To add to it, I had to hold my baby’s head and body up closer just to get to my breast over and over again where I started getting aches and pains like carpel tunnel in my hands and wrists and even shoulder, neck, and back pain from leaning over to get closer to my baby.  I thought there had to be an easier, more comfortable way to breastfeed.  I was very committed to making breastfeeding work and didn’t want to quit, so I did every possible thing to be creative to make the experience more comfortable for me and my baby.  I went to many lactation consultants, physical therapists and various other specialists and tried absolutely anything that could possibly help in breastfeeding more comfortably.

During this time, I was also spending quite a bit of time with other new breastfeeding mothers.  Being new moms, we would often breastfeed our babies together and I noticed it wasn’t only me – my new mother friends were breastfeeding in similar awkward positions contorting their bodies especially by leaning over to get closer to the baby and I often heard them complain of their own aches and pains.  I was also taking a “Mommy and Me” Yoga class where women would do yoga together when the babies were newborns and we would all need to sit on the floor against the wall and take breaks during the yoga class to breastfeed our babies.  Again, I noticed lots of leaning over and slouching and no breastfeeding mother of a newborn in that yoga class ever looked comfortable.

I quickly began to realize that breastfeeding a newborn 10-12 hours a day involved quite a bit of sitting for long periods of time.  Here are some tips that helped me along the way to modify my body aches and pains from breastfeeding my newborn baby and hopefully they can help you breastfeed more comfortably too:

  1. Try changing your breastfeeding position frequently. Give your body’s muscles a rest from the same repetitive position.  If you have a “go-to” breastfeeding position and place you always like to breastfeed, step out of your comfort zone and try something new!  For example, lay on the bed or even on the floor on top of a blanket with your newborn.  Look up the “side-lying” position, “football hold”, “laid back”, and “cross-cradle” nursing positions.  Try out each one to see which works the best for you!  Seek the support of a lactation counselor and/or your local La Leche League to help you in learning the different breastfeeding positions.
  1. Make sure you are breastfeeding in the right kind of chair. Sitting is one of the most strenuous activities for the lower back.  A deep cushioned couch or chair can contribute to poor posture habits causing you extra pain when breastfeeding.  Be sure to sit in an upright, firm chair.  This helps in making sure the bones in which you sit on are grounded evenly and will better support healthier postures helping to alleviate your lower back pain.
  1. Try breastfeeding standing up by using a baby carrier or a wrap. Standing up and moving around while breastfeeding can give your back a needed break from the constant sitting.  Find a local “Baby-Wearing” organization in your area to help you learn how to breastfeed easily standing up with an infant carrier. These organizations will often let you borrow different kinds of infant carriers for free!
  1. Get a massage. When you are busy with caring for a newborn, it is easy to forget about yourself. Jump at the opportunity to get a massage at a spa, from your partner, or another family member or friend.  If anyone asks what you would like for a gift – do not hesitate to ask for the gift of a massage!  The benefits of reducing pain from breastfeeding with a massage are priceless and will leave you feeling renewed and refreshed!  Remember to drink a lot of water afterward!
  1. Leave your seat to stand and walk as often as possible. Get up and go for a walk between feedings even if you can only manage to do it in five minute incrementsIf you feel you don’t have the time or the weather doesn’t permit to go outside, walk around your house for at least ten minutes, twice a day.  Pace back and forth in a couple of rooms and/or walk up and down the stairs a few times.  If you have the opportunity to get outside, try to walk for at least 30 minutes a day.  Take frequent breaks and always stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water.
  1. Begin exercising soon after the birth of your baby to restore muscle tone to the abdominal and back muscles. While the baby is napping, take ten minutes to do stretching exercises each day.  Lie on the floor on your back, bring each knee to your chest and hold for 20 seconds.  Straighten your leg up while laying on your back and hold a belt over your foot on top of your straightened leg and slowly move your leg closer to you with the belt for 20 seconds.  Do a “wall sit” three times starting at 30 seconds and up the time every few days by a few extra seconds as your muscles strengthen.  Join a “Mommy and Me” yoga class! It’s a great way to help modify your discomfort, get back into shape, and get out into the world with your new baby, as well enjoy yourself and meet other new moms!
  1. Sleep when the baby sleeps. It may seem near impossible to ever get any sleep with a newborn in tow. The first time I heard this advice it seemed silly to be taking frequent naps at odd points throughout the day.  I learned quickly though that if I did not sleep when the baby slept, I never got any sleep at all!  Take it when you can get it!  Rest is one of the most important factors in helping your body to heal and repair itself.
  1. Try alternating with ice and heat to alleviate your back and shoulder pain from breastfeeding. As simple as it sounds, cold alternated with heat compresses are excellent ways to alleviate pain anywhere on your body.  Take an ice pack and hold it to the area that is in discomfort for about 20 minutes and then remove the ice pack for about ten minutes. Then try applying heat to the same area for another 20 minutes.  Vary this treatment back and forth as many times as you like throughout the day until you feel desired relief.
  1. Stay hydrated! Try to drink at least eight cups of water a day.  When you are involved with caring for your newborn, it is easy to forget to drink enough water.  Dehydration can lead to exhaustion as well as aggravated body aches and pains.  An easy way to remember is to take a 64 ounce pitcher, fill it up to the top with water each morning, and make sure by the end of the day the pitcher is empty.  Make it a goal to fill the same pitcher and drink this much water every day.
  1. Ask for help from your partner or other loved ones. If you are experiencing uncomfortable pain, don’t continue to do everything yourself.  Ask for help with the constant lifting of the baby from a loved one until you feel better enough to handle the task on your own.  Many other women are going through the same experiences as you.  Join a local breastfeeding support group where you can meet other women like you to speak with in person at meetings such as La Leche League or any other new moms support groups held in your area.  There is great value in listening to other’s shared experiences and offered support!
  1. Bring the baby to your breast rather than bending over to the baby. Since you will be sitting for extended periods, try not to let the lower portion of your spine curve forward excessively.  Put a pillow or couch cushion behind your back to keep it straight, but still comfortable while you breastfeed your baby.  Bringing the baby to your breast rather than bending over the baby will help you avoid upper back pain.  Try any items that can provide you with additional support like pillows on your lap or in bed to help you bring your baby closer to your breast while breastfeeding.
  1. Do your best to maintain a positive outlook. Breathe deeply throughout the day. Meditate.  Enjoy breastfeeding your new baby!  Make the most of the sit-down time.  You deserve it!  Turn the television on, put your feet up, and relax.  Keep your motivation up by having things around that help keep you comfortable and entertain you while breastfeeding.

Congratulations with your new baby and happy breastfeeding your baby comfortably!

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