Caring for an infant comes with a host of physical ailments, from the typical and predictable (fatigue) to the somewhat unexpected (neck, back and wrist pain). It's amazing how a tiny baby can wreak such havoc on a caregiver's musculoskeletal system, and many new parents find themselves gritting their teeth through all kinds of physical distress.
I spoke to Stephanie Leaf, a physical therapist specialising in postpartum issues and the director of New Leaf Physical Therapy, for her best advice on avoiding and treating the pain caused by caring for a newborn. This week, she covers how to push a stroller so that your wrists and back don't suffer.
Don't cock your wrists and push from the heel of your hand. Don't jut your head and chin out, lock your elbows, lock your knees, or stand too far from the stroller (tough to avoid if you're carrying a bag on the handlebar). When I'm tired and pushing the stroller, I know I've lost my ergonomic ju-ju when it starts to feel like a trudge: I'm hunched over the stroller, head down, arms sticking out like someone in the last 400m of an uphill race.
It's understandable that pregnant women focus their planning on the impending delivery. Whether it's going to be a C-section or vaginal birth, at home or in a hospital, smooth jazz or screaming. You might even have made up a detailed 'birth plan', complete with instructions for pain meds; lighting preferences; and a plan for video, photos and cutting the cord.
Stand with your pelvis and back upright with your feet directly under your body. Keep your knees and elbows soft. Pull in your chin and keep your head over your body to avoid straining your neck muscles. Keep your wrists neutral so you can push through your entire arm and core and keep the stroller closer to your body (which might mean stowing your bag underneath instead of dangling off the back).
This guide reminds the stroller-pusher to keep "chest up, shoulders down" to prevent hunching up and injuring your neck and upper back. And if it's really bad, take heart - they have to start walking on their own eventually, right? Right?
This is the third instalment in the Postpartum Pain Clinic, a multi-part series on managing the aches and pains that come along with caring for newborns and infants.