New parenthood comes with a certain amount of pain: There's the delivery, of course, and the rather searing experience of learning to breastfeed a newborn. But aside from those delivery-specific pains, the new parent or caregiver might find herself nursing back, shoulder, neck,and wrist pain - all from hauling around the tiny new bundle of joy. But it doesn't have to be this way! To get an idea of how to protect your musculoskeletal system from undue strain, 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.
So far we've covered how to hold a baby, how to change a nappy, how to carry the nappy bag, how to nurse a baby, and how to push a stroller without causing or exacerbating undue neck and back pain. This week Stephanie weighs in how to pick up a baby without straining your back.
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.
"Bend at your hips and knees to not strain the lower back," says Leaf. "Scoop the baby from below with your entire hand to use your core and arm muscles and not strain your upper back, wrists, and lower back." Don't hold your hands and thumbs in an L shape, with the thumb as the bottom of the L - use your whole hand with thumbs and fingers together. The lifter should exhale on the exertion as they return to standing - this helps engage core muscles to give support to the joints.
"Don't bend over your straight legs and round your back," says Leaf. Don't over-extend or lock your elbows, and don't poke your head out. Don't try to clutch the baby with just your fingers - get your whole hand in on the action. When I was lifting babies, I tried to get them close to my torso as quickly as possible to minimise that awful drag on the upper back and shoulders. The same went for the baby carriers - the more snugly they held the baby to the chest, the more comfortable.
Thanks for tuning in Postpartum Pain Clinic and all of Leaf's terrific advice on parenting without pain. Now, of course, it's time to start thinking about what holiday gifts to get the new parent. My recommendation? A massage.
This is the sixth and final 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.