Mommy wrist occurs with repetitive extending, flexing and rotating your wrist to hold your baby.
It can occurs in dad's as well, but I primarily see this develop very early postpartum when your new baby has little strength or head control, and needs a lot of assistance for feeding.
Mommy wrist is formerly known as De Quervain's tenosynovitis. Symptoms include pain and swelling at the base of the thumb. If severe conditions go untreated, they can progress to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Here are a few common reasons why mommy wrist develops, and what you can do about them.
Breastfeeding/bottle feeding Posture
Getting a deep latch for breastfeeding can be very challenging with a newborn. It's temping to stoop way over your baby and turn your wrist to support baby's head. But both of these positions can result in wrist pain over time.
Ideally, you want to prop baby up on a good breastfeeding pillow such as this one, with enough pillows underneath it so that baby is as close to breast level as possible.
This is tricky when you're on the go, so make sure you do it as much as possible when at home so a few occasions of bad posture when you're out doesn't result in wrist pain.
Keeping a neutral wrist while supporting baby's head is key as well. Stretching out the thumb side of the wrist to get a better grip will result in wrist pain over time. You can wear a brace to help remind you of a correct wrist position when holding and feeding baby.
Upper Back Mobility
After pregnancy, we often have poor breathing mechanics, which results in a very stiff upper back. This makes it difficult to get the range of motion we need from our shoulder to reach around our baby and support our baby's floppy head and neck.
If we don't have upper back mobility we will get it from somewhere else, and that will be the wrist.
Using a foam roller to roll out your upper back at night can help improve your wrist pain. Also, be mindful of forward head positions, which can bring on a rounded upper back and create nerve entrapment/wrist pain.
Postpartum women frequently have tight pectorals muscles, weak shoulder stabilizer muscles, and weak core muscles. This is not a good combo when it comes to breast feeding and holding a baby around the clock.
Not to mention lugging baby's equipment all over the place.
Poor shoulder mechanics and stability will result in wrist pain. This is because the wrist will compensate for lack of shoulder stability, thus creating inflammation and overuse.
Stretching out your pec muscles and working with a pelvic floor PT to stabilize your shoulders (and core), will help decrease your wrist pain.
Mommy wrist is very common, but it is also very treatable and even preventable. It's likely your symptoms will improve as your baby grows and gains more strength, however the underlying cause of your symptoms will not change unless you address them.
Make sure you dig into the WHY of your issues, rather than simply waiting them out. They are likely to rear their head again later on in life or with subsequent babies.
If you are suffering from mommy wrist, try a few of these tips, and make sure to book your appointment with your pelvic floor physical therapist today!