Jason T Smith renowned Physiotherapist shares his tips on lifting and carrying children to avoid injury
In my years of physiotherapy practice, one of the most shared complaints from new mothers is that of back pain and strains. Lifting and carrying your baby or toddler is often a highly underrated task and the frequency of these activities can certainly take its toll on your body.
As a Mother, you tend to do a lot of repetitive lifting.
Not only are you continuously picking up your children, but also lifting baby car seats, baby strollers and spending large amounts of time bending over or kneeling down. The last thing any mother wants is an injury that prevents her from being able to pick up or carry her child. Maintaining good core strength is significant in avoiding back injuries, which are often slow to recover and quick to reinjure. Therefore prevention is the key.
The aches and pains that come from constant lifting and carrying can be reduced and prevented by practicing some safe techniques.
As a physiotherapist, I recommend the following:
- Begin with a strong base of support, keeping your feet shoulder distance apart.
- Immediately before lifting your baby, activate the core stabilising muscles in your lower back, abdomen, pelvic floor, inner knee and neck/shoulder.
- When lifting your baby, make sure to keep a neutral back, bend at the knees and use the muscles of your legs.
- Avoid carrying your baby on your hip as this will result in a misaligned and unbalanced posture and will create excessive stress on your back.
- Like the main image above, carrying and holding your baby in a central upright position, directly against your chest will allow you to carry for longer, without the risk of injury.
- When holding your child, do not twist or bend sideways – this creates excessive pressure on your body and especially on your lumbar discs.
- Never try to lift or carry both your child and a car seat or stroller at the same time! When time is of the essence, it is very tempting to juggle your baby on one hip and the car seat on the other, yet this is a very fast and sure path to serious back injury (let alone risk to your child).
- Often, injury is caused by quick, sharp motions such as reaching hurriedly for a toy or a bottle. It is important that you maintain control throughout your movements and are able to recognise your limitations.
Whilst it can be difficult to find large amounts of spare time during early parenthood, I also recommend regular exercise in order to maintain a strong, healthy back and overall wellness. Leaving the house to go to the gym or heading out for a run is often out of the question, therefore some simple stretching exercises can be excellent options for busy mothers and can be easily incorporated into your morning or nightly routines.
It is also a fantastic idea to maintain an exercise program throughout your pregnancy, not only to help with the extra physical effort of being pregnant, but to ensure that your body is in prime condition to perform the weight lifting and load bearing activities of a new mother. Back In Motion offer both Mums in Motion™ and Mums & Bubs™ classes, in which exercises are specifically designed and cater to the needs of expectant or new mothers and their babies.
If you experience any pain or injury, or are limited in performing certain activities, visit your local Back In Motion physiotherapist for a free initial assessment and a program tailored to your own personal needs.