I have been a parent for a little over a month and already I feel how hard it is to be a parent. No, I am not talking about lack of sleep or other things that is expected when taking care of a baby who is entirely dependent on the parent. What I am talking about is the physical demands that is taken on the body while having to carry and transport the new born around. Many patients of mine complain about low back, neck and shoulder pain often related to being a parent of young children. Now that I am a parent, I started feeling the same type of issues which made me re-evaluate the way I was handling my newborn.
Some pains that I have started noticing:
- Low Back Pain when lifting the car seat out of the car or stroller
- Shoulder Pain when carry the car seat around with one arm
- Neck Pain and Headaches from constantly tilting my head to one side while carrying my baby
As a chiropractor, I often see postural distortions in my patients: A high shoulder here, a low hip there, etc. These positions don’t occur after one event, but rather after numerous microtraumas. Most often microtraumas (small injuries to the body) cause an inflammatory reaction that may not even be felt. However, when our bodies experience repetitive microtrauma the development of more serious conditions often arise, including pain.
Parents are not exempt from putting their bodies through rigorous activities in order to transport their children, often resulting in microtrauma and postural distortions. There are many baby carrying options developed to help parents and children travel comfortably, whether it is across the house or across the country: strollers, car seats, on the hip/piggy-backs, Cloth Carriers (used around parent’s body), Baby Bjorn and many more! In order to prevent faulty biomechanics of the spine resulting from postural distortions knowing the proper way to utilize these baby carriers are the first step!
Just like your desk in your workplace, ergonomics is key. First purchase one that fits, just like a good desk chair. It is essential that you can take full strides while pushing the stroller, this may be more difficult if you are either very tall or shorter.
When pushing the stroller try to keep in mind:
- Keep head and chin parallel to the ground
- Keep ears over shoulders (The ear should be directly over the top of your shoulders)
- Lead with your chest, shoulders and arms should remain relaxed.
- Keep wrists neutral.
- Engage core abdomen muscles, and belly breathe as much as possible!
How many times do we see parents struggling with the diaper bag on one shoulder and the car seat being carried in the other? While the ability of snapping into the stroller is a wonderful invention, parents often use this as the main transportation method. It’s best to take the child out of the car seat and carry in an alternative carrier, rather than torquing your spine. And if you are carrying just the car seat, Do Not hold with one arm but cradle it in both arms next to your body. When you hold it with one arm, you put a lot of strain on your rotator cuff while trying to hold the car seat far enough away from your body so that you can walk.
When lifting a car seat out of the stroller/vehicle, remember you're lifting a heavy, bulky item. Engage core and lift with your legs
Carrying child on the Hip:
When parents lift their child to their hip, they often are in a rush or need to do something where they can utilize their hands while keeping a watchful eye on their child. Again, alternate baby carriers would be preferred but while carrying on hip remember:
- Keep spine neutral- try not to slouch.
- Don’t protrude one hip out to rest child, instead maintain hip over knee over ankle position.
- Switch hips. Often when talking to mom’s they say they always carry purse/diaper bag on one arm and hold baby on the opposite hip. This screams microtrauma. Altered posture is bound to arise unless you are keeping good balance.
Probably one of the best options for ergonomics of mommy or daddy & baby. Not only are hands free to work, baby can sit comfortably, while strapped onto either the parents front or back. “Baby Wearing” has tremendous baby-parent contact time which stimulates neurological, emotional, physical & social development.
Keep spine neutral, abdomen braced and ears over shoulders while carrying baby either in front or on back.
Regular Chiropractic Check-Ups:
Anytime your body is enduring stress it is best to see your chiropractor, whether it be physical, emotional or chemical stressors. Postural adaptations while learning to ergonomically transport your baby may affect your spinal joints. It is important to recognize any discomforts related to transporting your baby early on: fatigue, pain, muscle tightness, sensitivities etc. Your child can also get a chiropractic exam after birth to prevent spinal misalignments which when addressed early may prevent abnormal development. Spinal stress eventually leads to nervous system dysfunction, so eliminating this as soon as possible encourages optimal body functioning for the entire family.