How Physical Therapy Supports Breastfeeding Mothers

Being a new mom comes with many new changes and demands on the body. Lifting your baby from the crib, carrying a car seat around, and constantly breastfeeding or pumping can take its toll on the body. The following tips may help protect your body from the demands placed on you during this new phase of life, and explain how a Physical Therapist may be beneficial to improve your quality of life. Learn more how PT supports breastfeeding mothers.


– Breastfeeding posture: Complete breastfeeding in a supportive chair, feet flat on the ground, and with good lumbar support. To provide lumbar support, you can simply roll up a hand towel and place it at your lower spine between you and the chair. This should help keep your pelvis upright and provide a natural inward curvature of the lower spine, rather than a slouched flexed position.

– Rather than lowering the breast down to the baby, add support under the baby with a pillow or two to raise the baby to the breast. This allows you to sit upright with good posture rather than slouching down to the baby.

– While breastfeeding, try some deep breathing to allow for full body relaxation. With prolonged sitting, you may notice increased tension in the inner thighs, glutes, abdominals, pelvis, shoulders, chest, or jaw. Try completing body scans to help with full relaxation to identify where you may be clenching or holding tension.

– If you are having a hard time finding a position that is right for you, a Physical Therapist can help provide posture tips and a home program to work on strengthening and stretching muscles important for good posture.

Clogged Milk Ducts

– If you start to notice firmness and/or tenderness in the breast tissue and a decrease in milk production, you may have a clogged milk duct. A clogged milk duct is a blockage of the milk from exiting at the nipple, causing a back-up of milk behind the blockage that leads to that tender and firm lump.

– Ways to prevent clogged milk ducts:

    • Utilize a warm compress (towel with warm water) on breast tissue before breastfeeding or pumping. You can also perform gentle massage at the breast tissue moving towards the nipple to help let down the breast milk.
    • After breastfeeding, you can use a cold pack on the breast tissue to prevent inflammation.
    • Perform on-demand pumping/feeding to prevent engorgement. Only pump amount infants will consume to avoid hyperlactation.
    • Avoid tight-fitting compression from bras/clothing.
    • If pumping, wear properly fitted breast shields to prevent excessive compression.

How Physical Therapy can help if you are suffering from a clogged milk duct

In our Physical Therapy clinic, we have a therapeutic ultrasound machine. This is a device that heats the tissue at the site of the blocked milk duct to break up the clog. Pumping or feeding immediately after ultrasound use in the clinic can help to then remove the broken-up clog. Further, your physical therapist can teach you a light massage done at the breast tissue to help stimulate lymph nodes in the surrounding area of the breast to assist with draining excess fluid.

– It’s important to get a clogged milk duct taken care of as soon as possible to avoid the clog progressing into mastitis. If you notice the breast becomes hot to touch, red, fever, feeling unwell, body aches, or other signs of infection, the clogged milk duct may have progressed to mastitis. If any of these symptoms occur, contact your doctor to receive treatment for a possible infection.

Hormone changes

During the period you’re breastfeeding, the body is still releasing hormones that cause laxity throughout the connective tissue in the body. With this, not only is it important to maintain good posture as noted above, but also important to keep the muscular system strong to help support the back, abdomen, pelvis, etc to perform the activities you need throughout the day for your baby and yourself pain-free. When your doctor clears you for physical activity, starting a gentle exercise routine that gradually builds up full body strength is best. Splitting up days into a leg day, arm day, and core/back day can help guide your strengthening program. A Physical Therapist can help you build a home program that is right for you to help you reach your specific goals, as well as address any pain you may be experiencing.

With this new demand on your body, common areas of pain or injury include the lower back, upper back, neck, shoulders, and more. As stated above, a Physical Therapist can help provide a home program, as well as provide body mechanic education on lifting and carrying the baby to prevent further injury. With lifting the baby, it’s important to keep the baby close to your body weight, use the legs rather than the back, and exhale as you lift to prevent injury. You can ask your doctor if you think physical therapy may be right for you.

If you are looking for assistance, reach out to one of our skilled Women’s Health PT Specialist


Physical Therapist
Grace graduated from Marquette University with her Bachelor’s in Exercise Physiology followed by her Doctorate in Physical Therapy.