In the same way that tennis players develop “tennis elbow,” I seem to develop “breastfeeding wrist” after I have a baby. With both Alex and Tyler, a couple of weeks after they were born, I noticed a sharp pain in my left wrist that got worse and worse. When I first developed it with Alex, I mentioned it to my lactation consultant, Ellen Steinberg, who said it’s actually a fairly common problem. A friend whose son is three months older than Alex mentioned that she also had pain in her wrist but I didn’t realize just how common this problem is until I saw that KellyMom.com, my favorite breastfeeding site, addresses the issue.
The pain seems to be the result of breast massage and cupping the hand to support baby’s head during breastfeeding and while holding him. Even though I was aware of the potential of this problem developing after Tyler’s birth, I still wasn’t able to avoid it. My friend, who’s a doctor, described her problem as tendinitis and ended up getting a steroid shot to deal with the pain. KellyMom describes the problem as carpal tunnel syndrome. I’ve never been to a doctor to be treated for it so I’m not sure what the proper diagnosis is.
KellyMom recommends the obvious during breastfeeding, i.e., try to position baby so that you’re not cupping your wrist. They also have a list of possible treatments that includes wrist splints (these helped me a little), ibuprofen (which my obstetrician recommended when I mentioned the problem to him; it didn’t help at all), and acupuncture (I wish I’d thought of this after I had Alex; now it’s too hard to get to my acupuncturist but it probably would help a lot). Another remedy that’s not mentioned but that made the pain tolerable for me was the use of a high quality wintergreen essential oil on my wrist. (Disclaimer: I’m no expert! Check out the Essential Oils Desk Reference for more info.)
My breastfeeding wrist with Alex did eventually go away. When he was about five months old, I needed a steroid shot to calm down a severe case of eczema, and it ended up having the side benefit of almost completely eliminating the pain. I’m hoping that with Tyler, the pain will go away once he starts solids and is breastfeeding less and for shorter periods. If it doesn’t, I guess I’ll be visiting the doctor for a shot.