The months following the birth of a child are some of the most rewarding for new parents — and the most challenging to a new parent's body. Lifting and carrying a child, picking up toys off of the floor, and pushing a stroller are normal daily tasks for moms and dads. But these activities can result in new aches and pains (such as low back pain) from improper mechanics while doing things more often than you are used to.
Here are some tips on how using proper body mechanics to help ease the strains and stresses of parenting:
1. Lifting Your Child From the Floor
When picking up your child from the floor, you should use a half-kneel lift:
First, stand close to your child on the floor. While keeping your back straight, place one foot slightly forward of the other foot, and bend your hips and knees to lower yourself onto one knee. Once down on the floor, grasp your child with both arms and hold him or her close to your body. Tighten your stomach muscles, push with your legs, and slowly return to the standing position.
To place your child onto the floor, the same half-kneel technique should be performed.
2. Carrying/Holding Your Child
When holding or carrying your child, you should always hold him or her close to your body and balanced in the center of your body. Avoid holding your child in one arm and balanced on your hip. When using a child carrier, be sure to keep your back straight and your shoulders back to avoid straining your back and neck.
3. Picking up Toys From the Floor
While straightening up and picking items off the floor, keep your head and back straight, and while bending at your waist, extend one leg off the floor straight behind you. You can also use the half-kneel technique discussed above, if several toys are within the same space.
4. Lifting Your Child Out of the Crib
As you lift your child out of the crib, keep your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Arch your low back and, while keeping your head up, bend at your hips. With both arms, grasp your child and hold him or her close to your chest. Straighten your hips so you are in an upright position, and then extend your knees to return to a full stand. To return your child to the crib, use the same technique and always remember to keep your child close to your chest.
5. The Stroller
When you are lifting your child from a stroller, stand directly in front of the child to avoid twisting your back. It is important to bend from your hips rather than from your lower back, much like rising from a squatting position.
When walking your child in a stroller, you will want to stay as close to the stroller as possible, allowing your back to remain straight and your shoulders back. The force to push the stroller should come from your entire body, not just your arms. Avoid pushing the stroller too far ahead of you because this will cause you to hunch your back and round your shoulders forward.
6. The Changing Table
Before placing the baby on the changing table, it is essential to keep him or her at the center of your body. The table should be at the appropriate height for parental use. When changing your baby's diaper, the best table placement and height is directly in front of and slightly below the elbows. This helps avoid the type of bending and twisting that can cause injury.
- Place all diaper-changing materials within arm's reach — for instance, in wide-set drawers directly below the changing area.
- You may wish to place one leg on a stool when you are using the changing table. This can help take strain off your back and neck.
If you develop any aches and pains as a new parent, a physical therapist can evaluate you and design a treatment plan to address your specific problems.
Physical therapists are movement experts. They improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. You can contact a physical therapist directly for an evaluation. To find a physical therapist in your area, visit Find a PT.