As a new mom, you will be doing a lot of the same movements over and over (and over and over and over!) again. For a while, it will feel like all you are doing is feeding your baby and changing its diapers. Unfortunately, a lot of these common activities have moms leaning forward over their baby in uncomfortable positions, which often results in hunched, painful backs. Here are a few tips about how to easily adjust your positioning so that these repetitive activities do not lead to long lasting pain or posture issues.
The very best place to change your baby’s diaper is on a changing table or on a surface that does not require any bending over. Changing diapers on the bed or floor can lead to excessive hunching over of the upper back. While the reality is that you will sometimes need to change your baby somewhere other than the changing table (say, at a friend’s house), when home, make an effort to utilize the changing table. If you have to change your baby while s/he is lying on a bed or couch, sit down next to your baby to change the diaper. Do not bend over at the waist. Also, try to put common changing supplies (diapers, wipes, trashcan) in a spot on or near your changing table so that you are not twisting to grab them. When changing your baby, utilize good posture: stand with shoulders over hips over ankles, soften your knees, and relax your shoulders.
Carrying a Car Seat
The bottom line is that you want to avoid carrying your car seat. We see women with serious damage to their hips and lower backs from carrying heavy babies in heavy car seats. We suggest all clients either use a stroller or wear their baby in a wrap, carrier, or sling. Hauling the car seat around is one of the quickest and easiest ways to do real damage to your back. If you do need to carry the car seat, carry it on the front of your body (like you would carry a laundry basket) as close to your center as possible.
Walking With a Stroller
While still pregnant, both you and your partner should try out strollers at the store. You want to find a stroller that allows both of you to stand up straight with your hands on the handles, still have relaxed shoulders, and only slightly bent elbows. If there is a big difference in height between you and your partner, try to find a stroller that has height-adjustable handles. When walking with your baby you want to focus on three key points:
1. Gently pull your shoulders back and down
2. Take long strides, focusing on keeping your shoulders aligned over your hips
3. Gently pull your belly button back towards your spine
Feeding Your Baby
You will spend more time feeding your baby than doing nearly anything else for the first few weeks after labor. Most women, whether nursing or bottle-feeding, spend weeks hunched forward over their baby, which can lead to overstretched, weak back muscles. A few key points that will help with alignment when feeding a baby:
1. Find a chair that allows you to sit tall, but is still comfortable. Most couches encourage a slumped forward posture. Find a chair (manufacturers are making some great ones) that has firm back support and allows your feet to rest comfortably on the ground.
2. If nursing, invest in a breastfeeding pillow. This will bring the baby up to the correct height for feeding, rather than you slumping forward to meet the baby. These pillows are really great at supporting correct feeding posture.
3. If possible, rest your feet up on a stool or ottoman. This will keep you from crossing your legs (which is unhelpful for spine and hip alignment) and will encourage correct posture.
Moms- what have you found that helped keep your back protected?? Any advice?