A good number of my patients are getting to that age where they are having their first children, and more recently a couple of them have come in complaining of neck/shoulder and back pain that they have developed from caring for their newborns. Since this topic was top of mind, I figured I would share the tips that I gave to them with you in case you or someone you know is having similar issues.
Here are a few tips:
- Posture – When carrying or feeding your child–bring them closer to you–not the other way around! A lot of the pain that is created from caring for your child comes from adopting rounded and flexed postures for prolonged periods which puts strain on the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissues of your spine and other joints. This is very similar to the strain that is created from poor workstation ergonomics which I have discussed in the past. It is important to remember to keep you shoulder blades pulled back and down while you have your child in your arms. Letting them drift forward over stretches the rotator cuff which can lead to shoulder and neck pain. You should also remember to hinge from the hips if you need to bend down, and try not to stare down at them for too long, regardless of how adorable they are.
- Props – Be sure to use pillows to prop your child up when you are holding them in your lap. Doing this will help you be able to maintain a good posture as described above. Use as many pillows as it takes to keep them supported enough to give your shoulder and arm muscles a break while keeping them in a good position.
- Switch Sides – Make sure that you are switching the side that you carry/feed your infant on. Relying only on one side of your body to carry the load can cause over use strain, and compensatory muscle development which can cause pain generating distortions in your posture. Not only is switching sides good for helping you avoid/get out of pain, it can also help your child as well, for the same reasons. Also, learning to do tasks with your non-dominant hand is also a great exercise and challenge for your brain, and who doesn’t need more of that in our lives?
- Gather Them In – The last tip I will give you is about how to lift your child properly. They may not weigh a lot, but if you are stooping over to pick them up multiple times per day, then you’ll want to make sure you are doing it correctly. The best way to do this is to get as close to their level as possible by squatting or bending your knees and then hinging from your hips. After you have gotten down to them, pull them in close to you before you return to standing. The further out they are when you pick them up, the more strain it will put on your lower back, and put you at risk for injury.
That pretty much sums up everything I know about childcare! If you have any questions about specifics on lifting/carrying technique, make sure to ask at your next appointment.