5 Ways that Yoga Teachers can Support Breastfeeding Moms
Updated: Aug 6, 2020
It's World Breastfeeding Week! Every year, one week (August 1-7) is dedicated to raising public awareness and support for breastfeeding. I'm sure many of us know the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding for mother and baby - you can read all about the nutritional, physical and mental benefits of nursing on this World Health Organization (WHO) page - however, breastfeeding isn't always easy and the more support moms receive, the more likely that they would be able to sustain breastfeeding. If you are a prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher who regularly come into contact with expecting and new mothers, you may wonder what you can do to help moms on breastfeeding journey.
Here are the top 5 ways you can support mothers:
Allow mothers the opportunity to feed during class - WHO recommends that "infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth", that's why I encourage moms to bring their babies to yoga when they resume their yoga practice postnatally. Mom and Baby yoga classes are very popular for many reasons - being able to participate in a group yoga class without separating from baby is one of them. During class, moms are welcome to feed their babies at any time and anywhere. If moms choose to feed on the mat, remind them that it’s not time ‘wasted’ - they can still tune in to their breath, feel the connection with their little ones and even do some pelvic floor awareness exercises as they feed!
Create a safe, non-judgmental space for moms - we know how great breastmilk is, and I certainly do not shy away from discussing these benefits of breastfeeding with moms; however, I’m also very aware that some moms choose not to breastfeed for their own reasons, and it’s not the yoga teacher’s place to judge or criticize them for their choice. Moms are just as welcome to bottle-feed their babies during class and they shouldn’t be made to feel like a bad mom if they choose not to breastfeed.
Provide moms with tools to support them mentally and emotionally - nursing is beautiful and natural, but it can also be a frustrating and stressful process for some families. Yoga provides moms with tools like pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation to help them cope with the potentially physically and mentally demanding job of feeding baby.
Help moms relieve sore muscles - feeding babies or pumping milk for prolonged periods of time, day after day, can wreak havoc on moms’ postures and cause serious tension in their necks, shoulders and back. Incorporate gentle neck and shoulder shoulder stretches, chest opening and back stretches into the class sequence to help moms release tension in these sore areas. Just to name a few helpful poses, you can do neck rolls, Garudasana (Eagle arms), Gomukhasana (Cow-faced pose), Cat and Cow.
Encourage moms to share their experiences with other moms - a mom may feel that she alone is having difficulties with feeding while the rest of the world has got it right. The fact is breastfeeding has to be learned and it's not uncommon for moms to struggle with feeding. It helps to connect with other moms who may be feeling the same way. There are also many support networks and experts that provide information, advice and moral support for breastfeeding moms. Please connect with me if you would like recommendations for midwives, lactation consultants or wonderful groups of women who can support you through your breastfeeding journey.
This is by no means an exhaustive list - there is so much that we can do collectively to help mothers. I hope that the above suggestions will inspire yoga teachers to normalize breastfeeding, at least within the studio walls, so that moms can leave the yoga class feeling supported and empowered.
As a yoga Instructor based in Hong Kong, my main goal is to provide education and resources to inspire a positive pregnancy and childbirth. My passion lies in teaching prenatal & postnatal yoga, baby yoga and yoga for birth. I have taught hundred of hours' pregnancy yoga, led yoga for birth workshops and provided teacher trainings to yoga teachers aspiring to teach pregnancy yoga. Connect with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Instagram @hollywongyoga.
The information provided on this page is intended for educational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider.