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Nearly every basic mommy move, from diaper changing to car seat wrangling, pulls your shoulders forward. As a result, the muscles in your back react as if you are falling and work extra hard to pull you upright, straining your back even further. Knowing the best way to carry, lift and push your baby can help keep your back in its best shape.
Here’s how to:
Many popular baby carriers employ ergonomic strapping systems to evenly distribute weight across your shoulders and upper back while holding the infant’s weight close to the body. “That allows you to engage your abdominal and back muscles to comfortably carry the baby for a considerable amount of time without fatigue,” says Brooklyn, N.Y.-based occupational therapist and industrial designer Carla Jaspers.
Be sure to cinch your front carrier tightly around your waist and shoulders. Many carriers have a tendency to pull your shoulders forward; counteract it by “imagining tucking your shoulder blades down into the back pockets of your jeans,” suggests Alison Sadowy, P.T., a women’s health physical therapist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Prevent muscle fatigue by switching between a variety of carrier positions or styles, like a backpack or a sling.
Before lifting up your bambino, imagine pulling in and lifting up your lower belly muscles, as you would when trying to fit into a tight pair of jeans. Inhale and hinge from the hips as you lean over, and exhale as you lift your baby.
Hold your baby as close to the center of your body as possible. “The closer the baby is to your center, the less pressure on your back,” notes Herman. Try to maintain a neutral spine, but avoid leaning back to balance your bundle on your shoulder. Resist the urge to hike up your hip and rest your baby there, which leads to poor spinal alignment, fatigue and eventually promotes back, hip and shoulder pain.