photo © 2009 D. Sharon Pruitt | more info (via: Wylio)Ah, having a baby is the most awesome and yet physically exhausting thing one may ever do. And the kicker is, you get to do it all on no sleep. Yay parenthood! What many people don’t realize right away is that having infants requires a lot of physical demand on the body. Think of how many times throughout the day you lug that car seat in and out of the house. How many minutes do you elevate your arm and shoulder to support a feeding baby? How many hours do you spend bouncing or rocking a fussy baby back to sleep. All at a time when your body (if you’re a mom) is weakened from the physical demands of pregnancy and labor. No fair.
But that’s life, right?
Following are the most common ways new parents use their bodies most often and a few tips for avoiding injury in each instance:
Lifting Whenever you are lifting anything be it a car seat, stroller or baby pay attention to the way you lift. Relying on a weak and tired back is inviting injury so keep a tight core, lift with your knees, use your arm strength and ask for help when you need it. Don’t forget to pay attention when lifting baby in and out of the crib since this usually takes place (many times) in the middle of the night when your muscles are stiff and tired and it requires you to bend awkwardly over the side of the crib.
Feeding Probably this is one of the only times you are able to sit quietly and relax a bit, but new moms tend to spend a lot of time watching their little angels eat while at the same time elevating their cradling arm and unconsciously hunching over baby. I call the resulting stiffness: new-mom-baby-feeding-shoulder-itis. It is characterized by a stiff neck and a nagging pain between the shoulder blades. Take a little care in positioning yourself for feeding time by propping your arm up with pillows to allow you to relax the shoulder, focusing on keeping your shoulders back as much as possible and trying not to “hunch” when looking down. Be sure to spend a minute stretching your neck during or after feedings to relax the muscles that have been contracted by looking down.
Carrying This is a huge source of discomfort and injury. This is a huge source of discomfort and injury. Try telling your 30 lb peanut that you can’t carry him until after mommy gets in a little more weightlifting at the gym. Yeah. That’s what I thought. Wether or not you’re strong enough to lug a constantly growing kid around, you will. To reduce your chances of injuring yourself focus on posture, strong core, and balance. Utilize carriers such as the Ergo and theMoby Wrap that distribute weight evenly over your body (as opposed to on a shoulder or hip) If you are carrying the baby in your arms, be sure to shift sides periodically and try to avoid hiking your hip. When carrying baby in carrier take extra care to maintain good posture and keep a strong core. This is very important. keep your stomach tight and your shoulders strong and drawn back. If you can do this you will succeed in strengthening your back while baby wearing as opposed to stressing it with too much weight and poor posture.
Prevention The best ways to avoid pain and injury is to use your body evenly, know your limitations and strengthen the muscles your body relies on most for good posture stability. When you are able to fit some exercise back into your life your number one priority should be to strengthen your core. Focus on exercises targeting your upper and lower back and entire abdomen. Your goal should be to make your core strong and keep your spine flexible. If your baby is less than a year old take extra care to do postpartum specific exercises.
Start with the changes above to help you avoid the aches and pains of caring for an infant. I promise nothing, however, to ease the aches and pains of the teenage years. For that you need a massage!