This is a guest post by my very own pelvic floor physiotherapist, Mercedes Eustergerling. Find her in Calgary at Vida Health.
When we think about the available options for breastfeeding support, a few professionals immediately come to mind: the lactation consultant (of course), the physician, nurse, midwife, and doula. All can be incredibly helpful for moms and babies who reach out to them. In this system, each profession approaches breastfeeding from a slightly different perspective and can offer help in different ways.
The physician would be the best person to see about a tongue tie. The doula would be great at supporting moms and dads through some tough times. (e.g., How exactly am I supposed to go to the bathroom or eat when my baby is cluster feeding for three hours?)
Is there a role for the physiotherapist in this system?
Let’s consider the things that physiotherapists are really, really good at:
- Managing inflammation
- Facilitating neurological reflexes
- Assessing neck and jaw dysfunction
- Adapting positioning for comfort and function
When I think about breastfeeding from mom’s and baby’s perspectives, these pop into my head right away:
- Blebs, mastitis and blocked ducts
- Latching difficulties
- Torticollis, head flattening and small mouth opening
- Back and neck pain, carpal tunnel and milk flow management
It might not be news to you that physiotherapists can help with carpal tunnel and torticollis, but what about the other difficulties? An increasing number of physios are taking courses and becoming capable of managing breastfeeding issues in moms and babies. And the best part? Depending on where you live, you may be able to submit these appointments to your benefits plan. (Ask your physio if this is the case.)
How to find someone near you
There are a few ways to find a physiotherapist who provides breastfeeding support. Try a few of these because every province and country is different:
- Google search. You can look for “physiotherapy [city name]” combined with “lactation,” “breastfeeding,” “mastitis,” “plagiocephaly,” etc. For example, you may type in “mastitis physiotherapy Calgary.”
- Mom groups. Ask your friends on Facebook or at in-person mom groups. They might know of someone or have contacts in the profession.
- Physiotherapists! If you know a physiotherapist in your area, ask if they are familiar with someone who does breastfeeding support.
In Canada, there are 24 physiotherapists who have taken a recent course (January 2018) on breast health. These ladies can help with mastitis and plugged ducts!
Why it matters
More than half of mastitis cases do not require antibiotics. Plus, most women who experience mastitis once will likely experience it again during their breastfeeding journey. If we can treat the condition quickly and effectively without having to use antibiotics, then we should aim to do so!
Physiotherapists can use a wide range of tools to reduce the inflammation and restore normal milk transfer. These include lymphatic massage, ultrasound, latch adjustment, pump fitting, and more.
If you are looking for breastfeeding support, consider seeing a qualified physiotherapist. We have unique educations and backgrounds that allow us to help with a variety of breastfeeding related issues. Ask around, and if your favourite physiotherapist doesn’t work in this area, you can encourage them to explore it.
Mercedes Eustergerling is a physiotherapist and lactation consultant in Calgary, Alberta. She has a Bachelor of Kinesiology from the University of Calgary and a Master of Physical Therapy from the University of Western Ontario. Mercedes has pursued an interest in chronic pain, earning a Pain Management Certificate from the University of Alberta. She also has a Certificate in Sport Physiotherapy and works with a variety of athletes.
As a mother and a women’s health professional, Mercedes understands the changes that take place in a woman’s body during pregnancy and after childbirth. At Vida Health & Wellness, she makes every effort to help fellow mothers achieve their goals in a welcoming and comfortable environment. Mercedes offers hour-long one on one appointments during a variety of hours, and clients are welcome to bring their babies and children. She has online booking to make it easy to manage schedules and electronic charting to facilitate communication with other healthcare providers.
Please see Vida Health & Wellness at www.vidahealth.ca for more information.