The Relationship Between Body Tension and Feedings

The Relationship Between Body Tension and Feedings

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and essential part of nurturing your baby, but have you considered the role of tension in this journey? It’s often underestimated, yet your baby’s bodily tension plays a crucial role in the ebb and flow of your breastfeeding experience. Factors such as latch quality, weight gain, and positioning don’t always provide a complete picture of your baby’s ability to utilize their mouth and body effectively. Understanding the role of tension in breastfeeding can help you feel informed and ready to adapt and overcome any challenge you may face.

Enhancing Latch and Positioning

Improving your baby’s latch and positioning can work wonders in helping your little one engage their muscles optimally during breastfeeding. A deeper grasp of these aspects can mitigate tension in your baby’s body and facilitate a comfortable, efficient, and effective breastfeeding experience. Here are some strategies to consider:

1. Ensure your baby’s tummy touches your own. Align their ear, shoulder, and hip in a straight line for optimal positioning.

2. Allow your baby’s hands to roam freely. Their hands serve to massage and shape breast tissue while supporting their neck and shoulders during feeds.

3. Avoid gripping your baby’s head during breastfeeding. Granting your baby the freedom to move their head forward and backward encourages neck extension, which requires unrestricted movement.

4. Experiment with positions that leverage gravity to pull your baby’s body closer to you. Techniques like straddle, side-lying, and laid-back nursing give your baby more control during feeding.

5. Tilt your baby’s head slightly backward. This helps the lower jaw move forward, making it easier for them to open their mouth for a deeper, more comfortable latch.

Breastfeeding: A Whole-Body Activity

Breastfeeding may seem centered on your baby’s latch, but it extends far beyond that. Consider the moments after birth when your baby embarks on the “breast crawl.” This process involves various reflexes that guide your baby toward your breast, the nipple, and feeding. While Montgomery glands secrete fluid to help your baby find their way, much of this process is automatic. To your baby, breastfeeding is akin to breathing or blinking—a reflex expressed when needed.

Detecting Tension: Baby

It’s essential to understand that if your baby can’t use all their muscles optimally during breastfeeding, they’ll adapt to a comfortable approach. These adjustments can lead to noticeable symptoms in your baby, such as:

– Shallow latch or difficulty opening their mouth wide

– Suck blisters

– Clicking sounds during nursing

– Frequent hunger after nursing

– Torticollis

– Rigid or stiff body posture

– C-shaped or banana curve positioning

– Milk leakage during bottle feeding

– Preference for nursing on one side or in one position

– Clamping or biting

– Irregular or infrequent stooling

– Breast refusal

– Hiccups, sneezing, or excessive gas

Tension Symptoms: Mom

If your baby experiences tension, you may encounter symptoms that hinder comfortable and effective breastfeeding. These symptoms might include:

– Pain while nursing

– Low milk supply

– Sore nipples

– Vasospasms

– Nipple shape changes after nursing

– Creased nipples post-feeding

– Cracked or damaged nipples

– Plugged ducts

– Mastitis


Causes of Tension

Tension anywhere in your baby’s body limits muscle range of motion and affects their overall mobility. Several factors can contribute to tension, such as:

1. Position in utero: Your baby’s position before birth can introduce tension much like how you wake up with a stiff neck after sleeping in an awkward position.

2. Birth: Interventions during delivery and the speed of birth can create tension. In cesarean births, the absence of birth canal compression can miss vital muscle adjustments. This series of compressions is important as it is comparable to a chiropractic adjustment.

3. Swaddling: Restricting your baby’s movements can affect muscle development, as early random movements of the baby help map out muscle coordination.

4. Oral Restrictions: Problems with oral function can lead to tightness in other areas of your baby’s body.

If you suspect that your baby has tension, Arkansas Lactation is equipped to support you. In addition to our IBCLCs on staff, we have a lactation informed infant physical therapist on staff who can assess your baby’s oral function, body tension, and reflexes in a way that is personalized to your breastfeeding journey and goals. Click this link to request a lactation consultation or an infant physical therapy evaluation.