Congratulations on your new addition! You have now entered the group of people that worry day after day, night after night, wondering if they are doing the right thing. It’s okay, you are not alone. In this article, we will not only review common movements such as picking up and holding your little one, but also look at how movement can be affected by certain tasks (changing diapers) or equipment (strollers, car seats). This resource will provide you with tips on how to better position and move throughout your day and night with your new bundle of joy.
Lifting your Little One
Did you know, on average, an individual will bend and lift roughly 300-500 times a day? This number increases when you have a little one to pick-up and put down. The challenging part of picking up your little one is that they are always at or near the floor. This means you will need to get to their level. You will have to either bend, squat or kneel down. The typical approach is to bend down; however, the unfortunate thing is that most individuals bend from their back, rather than their hips, and this places a lot of undue stress on the spine.
Now you may think that because your little one doesn’t weigh that much (5-20 lbs) you can get away with bending from your back. When you consider that you are also lifting your upper body (roughly 60% of your body weight) bending from your back puts a lot more stress on your back than you may have previously thought. It is important that when lifting your little one that you use the ‘Big 3’: Stable Base of Support, Hinge at the Hips and Anchor the Shoulders.
Holding your Little One
So you picked up your little one, now what? It is not uncommon to see parents holding their little one with rounded shoulders, craning their neck forward or shifting their weight to one side. These compensations may not feel like they are causing harm as, in the moment, there typically is no discomfort felt. However, these postural compensations may build-up overtime when holding or carrying your little one for a large portion of your day and encourage discomfort all over the body. To help you out here a few tips to keep in mind:
Prepare and Maintain Your Body
- Take a moment, before picking up your little one, to warm-up your body by doing a couple of quick exercises (shoulder rolls or anti-slouch).
- In between holds/carries, do some restorative exercises (neck stretches, shoulder hinges or side bends) to refresh the body and reinforce neutral body positioning.
- You can even do some hip hinges or lunges with the little one in your arms as a means of play with the added benefit of practicing the movement.
Utilize Equipment or Assists
- When seated and holding your little one for longer periods of time, try using a support pillow.
- Carriers, Wraps or Swaddles are effective tools to reduce the stress on the body.
Healthy Postures and Movements
- Be aware that you may shift your weight to one side in an effort to support your little one. This tendency may result in discomfort or tension in your hips, glutes and low back over time.
- Alternate between sides of the body when you hold your little one to minimize asymmetries in the body.
- Whether seated or standing, keep in mind the ‘Big 3’ movement fundamentals to help maintain your bodies natural body positioning
There are a lot of different ways to hold your little one and they may like some holds better than others. Try out different positions, so that you can understand what they prefer and what you prefer as well. The goal is to find out what works best for both of you
So we figured out how to pick up and hold our little ones, but now there’s a smell in the air. Diaper time! Whether out and about or in the comfort of your own home, it is inevitable that you will need to make a diaper change. At home, you likely have your change table set-up to suit you, and you have all the necessary supplies nearby to make this task as easy and efficient as possible.
When visiting friends or family, they may not have the best set-up and you may find yourself changing a diaper on the floor or a bed where awkward postures are all too prevelent. Where possible, use a surface slightly higher than hip height such as a table or desk. Regardless of the height of the change table/pad, get to your little one’s level. This can be done by widening your stance or kneeling. Additionally, hinge at your hips to minimize the distance and keep your shoulders anchored to reduce hunching. After the fact, take some time to do some restorative exercises.
For any new parent, bedtime is a loose term. In the initial months, you may be up every hour or so with your little one feeding or rocking them back to sleep. Use some restorative exercises (neck stretches, back extensions) to refresh and relax the body.
As time passes and your little one gets into more of a rhythm; bed and nap times become all about routine.You’ve got diapers, bath, teeth, story time and feeding. Try and set aside some time before to warm-up and prepare your body for the physical demands of the bed/nap routine.
Looking at the equipment, bassinets and, more so, cribs can pose potential challenges to your movement as we have to interact with them on a regular basis. It is important to use healthy body mechanics when we can, so keep in mind the ‘Big 3’: Stable Base, Hinge at the Hips and Shoulders Anchored. Most bassinets are set at an optimal height for the majority of the population and should allow you to use the ‘Big 3’ every time you lift or lower your little one.
As your little one grows out of that space and transitions into a crib be aware that your movement capabilities will also shift. In the initial stages, with the mattress raised, movement is relatively unimpaired. Your little one will grow and learn new skills (sitting, crawling, climbing, standing) and you will need to adjust the height of the mattress accordingly. As the mattress lowers and you are required to bend further to reach your little one, the railing may restrict your ability to bend/hinge from the hips. However, with their added skills they can get closer to you and reduce the overall movement required to pick them up. Still, there will be times when they have their own ideas of what is best and you may find yourself having to lift them from the bottom of the crib. Utilize a step to increase your height and overall movement minimizing the amount of bending through the back.
Strollers are great tools and when used properly can save a lot of stress on the body. If you are planning on going on a jog or a lengthy walk with your little one, start with a warm-up beforehand. The warm-up will prepare your body, not only for the activity but in the assembly and disassembly of the stroller as well.
When setting up your stroller, take into consideration your surroundings; there is no reason to open up your stroller in one place, then carry it down a flight of stairs already set-up. While carrying the stroller, keep it close to the body. Use the ‘Big 3’ with any bending or reaching for release latches or locks. Adjust the handlebar to an appropriate height (shoulders relaxed with arms by the body and elbows roughly 90 degrees). If done correctly, this positioning reduces stress to the entire upper body.
Once you have set-up your stroller, don’t forget the ‘Big 3’ when you begin securing/strapping your little one in. Caddies and other add-ons can be beneficial to provide storage for more commonly used items. Additionally, they can minimize the amount of bending for items normally placed in the underneath basket. When wrapping up and folding the stroller for storage, disassemble as few pieces as possible. As most of the add-ons and seats are relatively light and do not impede storage you can leave them on. Still use the Big 3’ whenever setting up or taking down the stroller.
Car Seat Handling
It’s the one thing you need before leaving the hospital and you’ll be carrying it to and from your vehicle for months after. You will see a lot of different ways to carry your car seat. From parents leaning to one side, to carrying it in the crook of their elbow. If you can keep in mind the ‘Big 3’ when carrying your car seat then you will be on your way to moving well with your little one in tow. The handlebar is the first point of contact that parents will use to carry their car seat, but there are other places on the seat to hold. Holding the side of the handle bar and underneath the seat provides good support and maintains neutral postures throughout the body. You can also use assists (shoulder straps) to reduce the overall load. Once you have placed the car seat down or have inserted it into your vehicle, do some restorative exercises (neck stretches, chin tuck or shoulder rolls) to reset your body and keep it going throughout the rest of your day.
Prepare and Maintain Your Body
- It is good practice to incorporate a warm-up early in your day to limber up and reinforce fundamental movement patterns.
- Use exercises throughout your day and night to reset your alignment, refresh your body and restore your physiological ‘fuel tank’.
Prepare the Work Area and Equipment
- Whether changing a diaper or putting your little one down for a nap; set the stage.
- Where are the things I need to get this done?
- Are they nearby?
- Use your equipment (strollers, car seats, cribs) properly to encourage healthy postures and movements.
- Use assists (pillows, carriers, add-ons) to reduce the strain on your body.
Healthy Postures and Movements
- Incorporate the ‘Big 3’ wherever and whenever possible
- Stable Base of Support
- Hinge at the Hips
- Shoulders Anchored