Have you ever been told not to use a babycarrier? I have had a handful of mums who have been told by health professionals not to use baby carriers. Normally because they are experiencing bad back problems, pelvic floor or other kinds of health issues – which all sucks right! You need to follow the advice or your health care provider (or seek a second opinion if this doesn’t feel right to you), but this frustrates internal motherly instincts because how do you ‘parent’ when you can’t hold your baby? We certainly don’t want back pain, pelvic floor weakness or abdominal separation to stop us from enjoying all the goofy & awkward parts of motherhood
Instead of taking a blanket ‘no babywearing’ or ‘no holding your baby’ approach, try to work with them to find some better strategies that will enable you to parent & care for your body at the same time. It goes against every motherly bone in my body not to hold my child when they are distressed/hurt/upset/crying/needing affection.
Here are my top practical tips for parenting if you are experiencing back pain
- Do your rehab exercises! If you are seeing a physio/chiro/exercise specialist etc make sure you are doing their daily recommended exercises… daily! Don’t wait for things to magically get better, start strengthening your body today. Generally backs need to stay mobile! This includes your pelvic floor, core, stretching & muscle building exercises too. Your child is only going to get heavier, so strength is essential.
- Choose an optimally positioned carrier and get it fitted properly. Ensure the carrier is Tight & snug so your baby moves with you. Ensure your babies face is In-sight at all times. Your baby should be Close enough to kiss, sitting nice and high on your body. Keep your babies chins off their chest. Your carrier should Support your babies natural shape of spin and provide knee to knee support in an inward/parent facing position (T.I.C.K.S).
I would avoid/minimise ‘tandem’ wearing if you have weak pelvic floor as the additional load could be too much for your muscles. I would initially steer away from one shoulder carriers, such as ring slings, as they don’t provide the same even weight distribution for Mum. And of course, share the load by getting Dad/Grandparent to help where possible.
In these types of situations using an optimally positioned baby carrier can actually be better for your body than just holding your baby awkwardly on one hip. In an optimally positioned carrier your body will be central & in better alignment, both you and your babies natural spine shape will be supported, your center of gravity will remain close and weight evenly distributed across your body.
If you are just holding your baby, gravity will quickly kick in and your shoulders can become rounded, you may favour one dominate hip that you hold your child on that side which throws your posture/back/pelvic floor out.
- Adjust your ‘work stations’. Set up your babies change table, cot, breastfeeding/nursing chair, desk etc so that you can maintain good posture. You can hunch over in all sorts of funky positions when changing nappies and feeding your baby, so make them higher or lower so that your body is more relaxed and natural. Pop a pillow under your arm or baby when nursing them.
- If you have a particularly heavy child who is in desperate need of a cuddle and you simply can’t lift them, get down to their height and hug/reassure them. Or sit comfortably on a chair and sit to hold them. I actually needed to do this a lot in the later stages of my pregnancy when caring for a toddler. If your child is a little older, you can start to encourage to independence at get them to start to get the things/toys etc for themselves.
- Get ambidextrous! We all favor one dominate side – which side do you almost always carry your child or hand bag on? See if you can consciously remind yourself each time to switch for the other side so that you start to rebuild your muscle balance.
- Choose a pram with an adjustable handle. The worst position would be if the handle is too low and requires more forward flexion at the hips, which changes your center of gravity and puts more strain through your lower back. Optimally your elbows should be sitting at 90 degrees and your shoulders relaxed. Enough room underneath the pram to take a comfortable length stride will also stop you leaning forward more.
Think of motherhood as a constant gym workout when you are using good technique & form to do your regular movements. You don’t have a personal trainer at home to remind you to engage your core, bend your knees etc, and we can easily pinch something when not paying attention when picking up your washing/toys/child.
Let me know if you have any other additional tips to help another Mum be safe & as pain-free as possibly while parenting.
Pre/Postnatal Fitness Expert
Founder of Nurtured Fitness