Advice for new Mums

Being a new mother taking care of a baby can put quite a lot of strain on a body that is still readjusting to “normal” after the changes it went through during pregnancy. In this article, we want to give you some advice how you may be able to make things a bit easier for your body.
How to sit while feeding?
First, you will have to find a comfortable chair. Feeding rocking chairs can be great, but make sure that the seat is not too deep for you (i.e. you are not too short for the chair). If it happens to be too deep, you can try to use a cushion or several cushions to shorten the depth of the chair front to back. It is important that you can get your bottom to the back of the chair, so your low back is supported. Try to have both feet firmly on the ground, as this will help with your posture. Do not cross your leg, as this twists both your pelvis and spine. With a good chair, you should be able to sit upright without slouching while being completely comfortable at the same time.
As holding your baby can place impressive strains on your shoulders and arms, you should consider putting a pillow under your baby so that the pillow takes some of the baby’s weight. Some of our patients particularly recommend a cushion called “My Brest Friend”. It is quite a firm cushion that supports the baby’s weight and also raises the baby to a good position for breastfeeding. At the same time, it supports the mother’s low back. Only patients with a particularly short upper body seem to be struggling with the cushion. It can also be somewhat less comfortable during the first week after giving birth, as the uterus continues to be enlarged during this time before it returns to its normal size. There is a special cushion versions for twins. The cushions are produced by an American company (, but are available in the UK via amazon, e-bay and John Lewis, to name just a few options.
How to best carry the baby?
This is a tricky one, as there are no magic solutions. You might take comfort in the fact that you are likely to get stronger over time. But it is also tremendously helpful to keep alternating sides! At first alternating will feel a bit strange, as we all have “preferred” sides, but over time it will get a bit easier. The advice to keep alternating is valid for your arms, while the baby is young, but also later for your hips, when the baby is getting older. Many women experience back problems at this later point, as carrying a baby on your hip requires you to stick out that hip, which will put an increased strain on your back. There are special strap-on hip seats for children that can reduce the strain:
How to get the baby into and out of the cot?
The main problem with this is that you are likely to have lost some abdominal tone during your pregnancy. You can considerably reduce the stress on your low back when picking up and putting down your baby by remembering to engage your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles first: Just slightly draw in your belly button and, simultaneously, imagine you are stopping yourself from peeing. If you do that, these muscles will form a protective corset around your lower back. And if that wasn’t enough to think about when you are rushing to comfort your crying baby: Bending your knees is also a good idea, as it means you will have to bend less to reach the cot. In short: Think tummy and knees before picking up or putting down your baby.
My back hurts when I am bathing my baby
This happens a lot when the baby is bathed in an adult bathtub. Consider using a baby bathtub that fits into the kitchen sink. That way, your back can remain straight while you are bathing your child. There are many different options. Here you find an article on e-bay, describing some feature of their “Top 5 Baby Bath Tubs of 2013“:
Try to spoil your body a bit
“Me-time” with a newborn or baby is seriously limited. Nevertheless, your body will feel a lot better if you can give it a little bit of attention. One of the best ways to exercise are regular brisk walks. Swimming (particularly backstrokes), Pilates and yoga are also great. If you do not have the time for either of those, try to at least gently circle your arms (forwards and backwards, as if you were a windmill) several times per day to loosen off your shoulders.
If you have particularly sore spots you can also try a “self-trigger point – massage”. This is best done on warm muscles, e.g. after a hot shower or bath, or after putting a hot water bottle on the affected area for a little while. Then you take a tennis ball and try to find the most tender spots. If you are working on the shoulder area or the back, this is best done lying with your back on a somewhat firmer surface, like a carpet or a yoga mat, placing the tennis ball between the floor and you. But trying this out in the bathtub while having a hot bath can also be particularly beneficial – in this case, you would press the ball between the bathtub and you. Once you have found a tender spot, lean into it until you would rate the discomfort at a maximum of 7-8 out of 10 (not more, as that would make you tense up even more). Then just hold that pressure until the discomfort reduces to roughly a 2-4 out of 10. Once that is achieved, you can move on to treat another point. Treat as many points like this as you like – you will notice feeling much looser afterwards!
Obviously, you can always come and see us with any body-related discomfort you are struggling with as a new mother and we will try our best to help you. Osteopathy is a great way to rebalance the body after the changes its gone through during pregnancy and labour.


New Year, New Me?

At this time of year we tend to see a lot of problems associated with people having had a slightly different routine over the Xmas/ New Year. Most of us have probably spent a bit more time sitting about on the sofa, and many of us have had spent longer sitting travelling to see family or friends. This isn’t a great thing for our bodies as joints and muscles really need to be kept mobile in order to maintain good health. Many activities which keep us more mobile also tend to stop for a couple weeks as well so it’s often a double whammy.
It always seems especially unfair to have problems when there hasn’t been any particular cause, but although we don’t always think we’ve been doing much, certain areas of our bodies have often been working hard. For instance sitting without supporting the lower back puts pressure on the lower back muscles, joints and ligaments. For short periods we tend to cope just fine but after hours the muscles will fatigue, the joints seize up and the ligaments stretch so when we then try and do something else with that area it really doesn’t take much to strain things.
At the start of the year things can be made worse by throwing ourselves into a new activity which we really aren’t prepared for and end up doing a much more serious injury as a result.
The best way to avoid these sorts of problems is to keep as mobile as possible. Even if you’re not doing any serious physical activity limiting the time you spend doing any one particular thing makes a big difference. So if you’re sitting a lot make sure you get up and walk about every 30 minutes. If you’re standing for long spells try and sit down, walk about, or even lie down for a while (though you might get some odd looks at work)
If you are starting a new activity, get some advice from a coach or trainer and then build up steadily. While if you’ve just had a bit of a break over the festive period, adjust you’re routine so you’re not doing it to the same level of intensity, and build it up over a couple of weeks.
If you feel things really aren’t right to start with then it may be a good time to come in and see us. As well as an MOT we can also give you specific advice on any sports or activities you’d like to get into in 2015.

A good night’s sleep

At the practice we are often asked by patients if we can recommend a mattress for them. Unfortunately as everyone is so different there isn’t one simple answer so I hope that this can act as a guide to you if you are looking at buying a new mattress.

The first question may be whether you need a new mattress or not in the first place.
If you have ongoing issues with your joints and muscles it may be that anything is going to be uncomfortable at the moment and rushing to spend hundreds of ponds might not even be necessary. However once thing start to improve the right mattress may help speed up recovery and will usually help prevent problems from building up in the first place.
A good sign that you might need to replace your mattress is that you get a more comfortable sleep while away from your own bed such as when you’re on holiday.
There are many different types of mattress and an awful lot of bands so I’ll start by giving a brief description of some of the terms that are used by most manufacturers.

Continuous coil /open coil
These are generally seen in cheaper types of mattress. Continuous coil mattresses are made from a single looped wire, and open-coil mattresses are made of single springs fixed together by one wire. Because the springs move as one unit, you are more likely to be disturbed by your partner moving around in the night. The coils in these mattresses wear out more quickly than pocket springs, so you’re likely to have to buy a new mattress sooner.

Pocket sprung
In these mattresses, the springs are sewn into individual fabric pockets to prevent movement (see above). For someone who is heavy, spring mattresses may offer a firmer support, making them easier to get in and out of. They tend to be popular and so most shops will have a good range allowing a lot of choice for support and price.

Memory foam
Most memory foam mattresses are actually sprung mattresses with a layer of temperature-sensitive viscoelastic material (memory foam) on top. Some, however, have extra layers of memory foam instead of springs, and are often described as pure memory foam, or memory foam-only mattresses.
The material is good at relieving pressure on painful joints as it moulds to your body shape. Memory foam mattresses are usually more expensive than sprung mattresses.
Because you sink into the foam it can make it difficult for you to move or get out of bed if you have limited mobility or strength. It also reduces air circulation around your body, which makes the memory mattress feel warmer. Many people find this helpful especially in winter, but some may feel too hot especially in summer.

Foam or latex mattresses tend to be durable and breathable and can be a good option if you’re allergic to house dust mites. Made from either natural or synthetic rubber, they tend to provide a very firm, bouncy support that is uniform throughout the bed. In some ways it is similar to memory foam but without as much give, meaning a generally firmer feel.

Becoming more popular, they are very convenient as they can be taken away after purchase. They may be a combination of other mattress types.

Mattress ‘toppers’
These add a layer of memory foam latex or extra padding to your existing mattress, but they won’t provide more support if your old mattress is already sagging!

Now that you know what you are looking at here are some general tips for selecting a mattress that’s going to be right for you.

A lot of people mistakenly think that a very firm bed mattress is best for bad backs but thats not always our experience and a 2003 study published in medical journal The Lancet found  that a moderately firm one may be better.
Buying a mattress online may be cheaper and more convenient but, it’s much better to try a mattress before you buy it.
When you sit on the edge of the mattress – it should be firm, not saggy. But you don’t sleep sitting up so when you go shopping for a new mattress, wear comfortable clothing and lie on a mattress for at least 10 minutes. Try all the positions that you normally sleep in. In one study 80% of bed shoppers spent less than two minutes trying out beds on which they are likely to be spending around 3,000 hours – over 120 full days – in just one year!
If you’re buying a memory foam mattress, relax into one position, and then move into another. If it was a struggle to turn you might find the memory mattress will restrict your movement too much.
Don’t let sales assistants influence you – they can’t decide whether the mattress is comfortable and don’t get swayed by mattress advertising claims or promotions.
Remember there is no industry-wide standard for tension. Medical-sounding terms like ‘orthopaedic’ usually just mean that those mattresses have more springs than others in that particular range.
If a mattress is too hard, it won’t support the body where it naturally curves and causes pressure on the hips and shoulders. If it’s too soft you won’t be properly supported anywhere, so the whole body sags and pulls you into a poor position.
Ideally the mattress should mould to the shape of your body while remaining supportive. When you lie on your side your spine should be horizontal. You should be able to turn easily.
If the bed is for two make sure you both try it! For partners of widely differing size and weight (3 stones/18kgs or more), different mattresses may be required. Some manufacturers make double beds from two smaller mattresses zipped together, which can be of differing tension. Others can combine different degrees of firmness in one mattress.
Finally if you are away from home and you find you’ve had a really good night’s sleep, don’t be shy to pull up the covers and find out what kind of mattress you’ve been sleeping on. There really isn’t any better test than that!