Breastfeeding is a special journey that fosters a unique bond between a mother and her child. It’s a natural process that carries emotional connections, nutritional benefits, and lasting moments of closeness. However, like all beautiful journeys, it is often accompanied by its share of challenges, including the search for the perfect latch, physical discomforts, and emotional changes. This is where the practice of yoga, an ancient discipline rooted in holistic wellness, can be a supportive companion.+
Yoga’s Holistic Approach: Connecting Mind, Body, and Soul
Yoga can transform your life. Far beyond a physical exercise, it forms a tapestry of connections between the mind, body, and soul. It serves as a guiding light for mothers as they navigate the transformative postpartum period, accepting the changes and finding balance amidst the whirlwind of motherhood. At its heart, yoga embodies principles of inner peace, mindfulness, and acceptance – all crucial elements for new mothers.
The practice of yoga includes physical postures (asanas), breathwork (pranayama), and meditation, all of which contribute to a mother’s overall wellbeing. This holistic approach not only strengthens the body but also creates a peaceful mental space, enhancing the breastfeeding experience.
Physical Benefits: Enhancing Lactation & Easing Discomfort
According to a study by Cadwell and Maffei, yoga offers postures known to aid lactation by improving blood flow and stimulating the milk-producing glands. These poses are believed to be beneficial for enhancing milk production and easing discomfort during breastfeeding:
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana): This posture expansively opens the chest, promoting better lung function and is believed to invigorate the thymus gland. It also strengthens the upper back, helping to counteract the forward-leaning posture often adopted while breastfeeding. If you birthed your baby via Caesarean section, wait for a minimum of 6 weeks before you practise Cobra. You may also find it more comfortable to place a folded blanket under your chest, abdomen or pelvis.
Child’s Pose (Balasana): A restful, grounding posture that alleviates tension in the back and nurtures the abdominal region. This pose provides much-needed relaxation and rejuvenation for new mothers. You may use a bolster or firm pillow to support your torso and head.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana): This elegant backbend is thought to enhance thoracic spine flexibility and promote better respiratory function. It also stretches the front body, relieving tension in the chest and abdomen. This is a strong pose, best practised initially in stages and under the supervision of a yoga teacher to avoid injury.
By incorporating these poses into a regular yoga practice, mothers may find relief from common physical discomforts associated with breastfeeding, such as tension in the neck, shoulders, and upper back. Moreover, yoga can help improve posture, which is essential for comfortable and effective breastfeeding.
Emotional Wellness: Navigating the Waves of Postpartum Emotions
Postpartum is a time of intense emotions, ranging from boundless joy to periods of anxiety and stress and it’s important to practise emotional self-care. Yoga offers tools to help navigate this emotional roller-coaster. Through its meditative practices and breathwork, yoga can help mothers find their centre, mitigate stress, and cultivate mindfulness.
Breathing deeply and mindfully during breastfeeding sessions can create a serene environment for both mother and baby. This focused breathing not only relaxes the body but also enhances the connection between mother and child, making the breastfeeding experience more enjoyable and fulfilling.
Read more tips on how to practise self-care as a new mother here.
The Science Behind It: The Physiological Interplay between Yoga and Lactation
Modern science supports the intuitive benefits that many mothers have experienced through yoga. Practising yoga is believed to release oxytocin – a hormone vital for breastfeeding. Known as the “bonding hormone,” oxytocin not only aids milk release but also strengthens the maternal-child bond. In addition, yoga’s stress-reducing properties can help lower cortisol levels, which, when elevated, could potentially hinder milk production.
The relaxation response triggered by yoga’s breathing exercises and meditative practices can further support lactation by promoting a sense of calm and wellbeing. As mothers feel more relaxed and at ease, their bodies are more likely to respond with a smoother, more efficient milk flow.
Actionable Tips for Your Breastfeeding Journey
Embrace Breathwork: Concentrate on deep breathing to instil calm and relaxation for both mother and child during feeding.
Stay Hydrated: As with any physical activity, staying hydrated is essential for overall wellness and can support milk production.
Engage with Your Baby: Integrate gentle baby-centric activities, such as baby massage or baby yoga, into your routine, fostering early bonding moments.
Consult Professionals: Seek guidance from healthcare providers or your midwife if you are struggling with breastfeeding.
Discover more information to support your breastfeeding journey here.
A Dance of Motherhood and Mindfulness
Breastfeeding, much like yoga, is a journey of patience, discovery, and deep connection. By integrating the principles and practices of yoga, mothers may find a richer resonance with their innate capabilities, crafting a more mindful and enriched breastfeeding narrative.
It’s essential to remember that every mother’s journey is distinct. While yoga offers numerous benefits, always prioritise your comfort and intuition.
Note: It’s always a good practice to consult with a healthcare or yoga expert to ensure that any poses and practices are appropriate for both you and your baby. Every individual’s experience is unique, and individualised guidance is invaluable.
About the author:
My Expert Midwife was founded in 2017 to help with the physical recovery challenges that women face during pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. Working with in-house expert midwives, they have developed a range of award-winning products designed especially for new and expectant mums and new babies, including their award-winning No Harm Nipple Balm. Their midwife-developed products come glowingly recommended by thousands of mums.
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I’m an inclusive, not scary, totally normal yet heavily qualified yoga instructor and founder of YogaBellies® and the Birth ROCKS Method. I’m trained in self hypnosis and meditation and what I love is helping women (ALL women) enjoy yoga without having to whisper all the time and wear fancy activewear that cost a month’s rent.
I believe Yoga is for everyone.