Becoming a parent brings joy like no other, but it also brings a host of new challenges that test the most patient and nurturing among us. It’s no secret that childbirth and the general sleep deprivation that typically accompanies caring for a baby have a profound impact on the body. In fact, musculoskeletal (MSK) complaints like back, neck and shoulder injuries are common among new parents, in part due to extra physical demands on the body. If you’re currently pregnant and experiencing back pain, consider chiropractic care to help manage symptoms and improve function so that you are ready for your new arrival. Once you bring your baby home, consider the following tips, as well as talking to your chiropractor to ensure that you stay healthy, mobile and pain free throughout this huge life transition.
- Lifting the baby
When lifting your baby from the crib, car seat or high chair, make sure to keep a neutral spine and use the proper technique to avoid injury. Use your legs, rather than your back, and bend at the knees and hips to lift gradually. Keep your feet grounded well and shoulder-width apart to balance the weight. Use a similar form when settling the baby into a crib or onto a change table. Also, if possible, try to change the baby’s diaper or clothing on a raised surface rather than on the floor or sitting awkwardly on the couch.
- Carrying heavy loads
Parenthood is full of heavy lifting! Car seats, diaper bags and all the other paraphernalia that seems to go along with the territory can also pose a risk for injury. To decrease the risk, hold heavy items close to your body. Likewise, to avoid straining your hands and wrists, place the entire palm of your hand under the load. In fact, it is often best to divide the task in smaller, manageable loads.
- Holding the baby
As your child grows, carrying your baby can become increasingly difficult. The added weight and exuberance of a squirming toddler increases the load and instability on your already fatigued body. To help, keep your wrists and fingers in a neutral position avoiding excessive bending and twisting. Also, avoid jutting out one hip or another, and keep your hips parallel, weight evenly distributed. Baby carriers can be a great aid allowing you to stand and move, and distributing the extra weight more evenly without exhausting your arms. This can help minimize the risk of strain on your lower back.
- Playing with the baby
As your baby grows and starts exploring his or her surroundings, you will likely also be spending more time on the floor playing. If possible while sitting on the floor, find support by leaning against a wall or a piece of furniture. Moving and stretching regularly, with the help of baby or not, can help prevent aches and pain. Try Straighten Up Canada for quick and easy exercises. When you child is older, he or she can join in too!
The height of the handlebar on your stroller should be at a comfortable level, approximately at the height of your belly button, enabling you to keep your shoulders and arms relaxed. Keep your elbows soft and wrists neutral instead of flexed.
- Take care of yourself
Parenthood can be exhausting, yet extremely rewarding. Self-care is important and maximizing your rest opportunities can help you manage the extra demands. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family, friends or anyone else in your support network. Finding a few moments every day for movement and physical activity can also help you manage stress and physical demands.
- Mama OT, “25 Tips for Preventing Injury in Infant Caregivers”, January 27, 2013.
- “Avoiding Back Injuries at Child Care”, Block Insurance Newsletter.
- “Ergonomics and the Child Care Environment”, White Hutchinson Learning e-Newletter, October/November/December 2008