Baby your back after your bub arrives with these tips.
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:
Wear your baby
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.
Lift your baby in/out of the crib
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.
Carry 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.
If you're sitting to nurse, think "straight and tall" and be vigilant about bringing your baby to your breast to avoid hunching forward. A nursing pillow can help raise her to breast level and offers much needed support for you. Alternate between nursing positions (football hold, side lying) to avoid overtaxing the same muscles. After putting her down, gently clasp your hands behind your head and pull your elbows back for 20 seconds to stretch your chest.
Push the stroller
A good rule of thumb to follow when adjusting stroller handle height: Put your hands on your hips. "Feel the two bony prominences in front. The stroller handle should be about that high," Jaspers says.
Transfer the car seat
The middle of the back seat is the safest for your baby, but taking your baby and her seat in and out of the car is murder on your back.
It's best to leave the seat in the vehicle and just tote your tot in and out, but if you want to carry her in the car seat, try this technique from Chicago firefighter and certified passenger safety technician Brooks Watson, co-founder of Safety Squad, a family safety consulting company:
- If entering the car from the right passenger side, open the door and place the car seat with your baby in it on the seat.
- Place your right foot on the floorboard and, keeping your knees soft, contract your abdominal muscles as you use both hands to lift the carrier and drop it into the base.
- Do the same during removal.
Once your baby weighs 15 pounds, Watson recommends leaving the car seat in its base and just taking your baby in and out.
Hold a diaper bag
Schlepping a bulky diaper bag around on one shoulder will overburden your arm, neck and back, throwing off your posture. Jaspers recommends a messenger-style bag to distribute weight more evenly across the body. If your diaper bag is loaded down with more than 25 pounds of baby gear, switch to a backpack style to prevent injury. If you must use a single-shoulder style, be sure to switch sides frequently and look for bags with minimal hardware, which adds weight.