Preventing Neck And Back Pain For New Parents

All Sports Physical Therapy offers a BabyFit Program for ladies who encounter musculoskeletal conditions during pregnancy and postpartum (after childbirth). Aside from first-time mothers, I have also come across first-time fathers, grandparents and caregivers who have an onset of neck and back pain related to the arrival of their bundle of joy. Even those who have had babies previously experience exacerbation or recurrence of their prior pains.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons noted that lifting a 7- to 10-pound baby may be done as much as 50 times a day. When the baby turns a year old, he or she may weigh as much as 17 pounds. I have shared to patients that I still sometimes carry my younger daughter (7 years old) from the couch to their bedroom when she falls asleep.

Here are some tips to prevent neck and back pain when taking care of babies and children:

General Conditioning:

Yes, exercise is still the best way! Sadly, there is no magic pill.  However, all postpartum ladies, especially those who have undergone Caesarian-section (C-section), should please consult with your doctor as to the safe resumption of exercising and the level with which to start with. I often say, “something is always better than nothing!” Once cleared to exercise, stretching or light yoga can help regain hip and back flexibility. When the baby is napping, it could be a good opportunity to either nap as well (to get much-needed and much-deserved rest) or to sneak in some “me time.” There is a higher risk of back pain among women who are overweight, so exercise can help get back to an ideal weight.

Lifting Your Baby:

I have often been asked if it is possible to keep proper posture while performing child care.  Having undergone two pregnancies, then actively cared for a niece, I have pretty good experience as a teacher. I have demonstrated how to bend at the knees when picking babies or children from any surface waist-level and below (as low as the floor.) Imagine that there is a chair behind you that you want to sit on so that the abdominal and back muscles (“the core”) engage and the lift comes from the legs and not through the waist.

Feeding Your Baby:

Before the specialized pillows for nursing came out, regular pillows placed properly on a mother’s lap can bring the baby to the level of the breast. Please do not bend over the baby when breastfeeding or bottle feeding, to prevent neck and upper back pain. An upright chair is more comfortable than an soft couch. Always remove the high chair tray when bringing the baby in or out of the high chair.

Carrying and Traveling With Your Baby:

The “front pack” to carry the baby is more advisable. Please do not straddle the baby with your hips. This tends to overwork the back muscles. When securing the car seat, kneel on the back seat instead of standing outside the car, especially when placing the car seat in the middle of the backseat. As the baby grows, please consider carrying the baby and the car seat separately to avoid overexerting your body.

Parenthood is a whole new experience. Please enjoy the ride…it’s a long one!

By:  Michelle Quimosing-Cruz, DPT

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