By Patti MacGregor, RMT
The postpartum period is a time of many physical and emotional adjustments.
After childbirth, a woman’s body undergoes many structural and physiological changes in order to heal from the rigors of labour.
Adapting to life with a new baby that demands 24-hour care can be extremely difficult, and for a new mom this can mean little to no time to look after herself.
Though it may seem impossible, this is the time that massage therapy can be most beneficial.
A mom who takes regular care of herself through massage is also better able to care for her baby. When the mother feels good herself, it is easier to meet the needs of her newborn.
A postpartum massage can be done with baby in the room (sleeping in the stroller) or while mom is in a sidelying position with baby skin to skin. There is no need to put off the massage if childcare can’t be found.
Working the breast tissue and underlying muscular structures throughout the chest and upper back is key for a postpartum mom.
No matter whether the mom is breastfeeding or bottle feeding, the body positioning of mom is similar and feedings are just as often. Pectoral muscles can become tight and ropey, while upper back muscles become stretched and weak. Both can cause a lot of discomfort and pain.
Working the breast tissue itself is extremely beneficial for breastfeeding moms, as some women who breastfeed may experience significant discomfort, swelling, throbbing, pain, hard or lumpy breasts, and swollen lymph nodes in the armpits. Massage can also help prevent blocked milk ducts or painful breast infections called mastitis.
The breast massage portion of the treatment can be done all while keeping the majority of the breast covered, should the client feel more comfortable, or one breast can be undraped at a time to give the practitioner easier access.
Depending on the client's issue, warm or cold compresses may be applied. Pressure will be light to medium and will all depend on client feedback.
The whole treatment should be relaxing and not painful or stressful in any way.
On top of regular massage therapy to help a woman’s body heal after childbirth and assisting it in adapting to this new role as mom, breast massage during and after pregnancy may help to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, as well as help tone the muscles.
A “regular Massage Therapy schedule” can be once a week if the therapist is treating a specific ailment or if it’s just for regular maintenance and support, every 3-4 weeks should do. Massage is also a great stress-reliever.
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