Ergonomic Advice For Parents Looking after Babies!
What areas can get affected?
The reasons why this pain can be present is commonly due to the repetitive nature and the increasing weight of your baby on the activities performed, such as feeding, bathing, changing nappies, putting the baby down to sleep and getting the baby in and out of the cot and the car.
Although pre-existing musculoskeletal complaints like lower back pain and neck pain may also present a challenge during this time, we have found through a lot of experience and teaching patients, that many simple things such as seated/standing position, lifting technique, and general body awareness can make a drastic impact on improving not only pain levels but overall posture, fatigue and wellbeing during this time.
Optimal Standing and Sitting Position:
· When standing (generally to change the baby or putting baby down to sleep), adopt a wide stance with the feet, and preferably with one foot slightly in front of the other,
· If you have to lean slightly, assume the above stance and bend from the knees rather than the back,
· Try not to change the baby on a low surface such as the bed, floor, or couch, but if required kneel to provide better stability for your body and activate your lower abdominal muscles (ie your core muscles) to reduce the strain on your lower back. Alternatively, use a table or chest of drawers, which may be a bit higher – and the drawers can be used to store things you nearby such as wipes, nappies and nappy bags,
· Generally sitting in a comfortable position with feet resting on floor, or a stool, with the hips slightly higher than the knees and in chair with a supportive back makes for a great start.
· When sitting up with baby, you can use pillows and towels to prop up the baby on your lap or near your chest to reduce the risk of hunching forward and straining the upper back and neck. Placing the pillow/towel in the small of the lower back, and/or at your mid-back position, and under your arm/forearm really help alleviate any strain and hunching.
· Alternating feeding positions from left to right side helps reduces the risk of muscular fatigue and also allows for comfort for both you and the baby. It also avoids your neck and their neck being in the same rotated position every time.
This can be related to lifting of the baby, but also things like the capsule, reaching to get the nappy bag, bottle, etc.
· Keep the baby, or object close to the body and use two hands to lift/carry
· When lifting, assume a wide stance and keeping the back straight, activate lower abdominal (core) muscles and then bend the knees as you lower down through the legs, still with one foot forward. It is best to alternate which foot is forward in this posture as well.
· If you are lifting the capsule or the baby in/out of the car, ensure you always use two hands, and you may prop your foot up on the floor/edge of car door to keep the back in a more neutral position.
Attaching the infant seat to the side seat rather than the middle seat will reduce the distance the body has to bend and twist, thus reducing the strain on the mid and lower back and the reaching through the body.
· When lifting and turning, ensure that you turn your whole body, including your legs and not just your torso and keep your lower abdominal muscles engaged and activated – even if it just minimally as this will support your lower back and spine
· Prams can be a challenge, especially if the handles are too low. Before you buy a pram ensure that the handles are approximately waist height and that the baby does not sit too low which will require a larger effort for you in bending to get the baby in and out.
· Bathing also presents a challenge, as often you are required to maintain a sustained position which can cause muscular fatigue and pain. If bathing in an upright bath, assume wide stance, and keep all things such as towels, creams etc nearby and at arm height, rather than bending for it. As your baby gets bigger and if you use a bath, kneeling down instead of bending of from the back reduces the strain on the lower back and neck.
General body awareness:
Being able to recognize when your body is tired from lack of sleep or tired due to muscular pain is very important.
Maintaining these principles above, as well as a healthy balance of movement such as walking, swimming or regular stretching regime is of great benefit. As well as any activation of your pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles when you are lifting, bending, or feel like you are straining.
Generally if pain or discomfort persists for greater than one to two weeks or if you are noticing an increase in severity, please contact one of our Melbourne Osteopaths at St Kilda Osteopathy. Being a South Melbourne Osteopathic Clinic we see patients not just from St. Kilda but from Melbourne CBD and Surrounding suburbs as well like Prahran, Caulfield, Elwood, Middle Park, Winsdor, South Yarra and beyond. who can assist in diagnosing your source of pain, but also provide further information on strength, stability, and pain relief to maintain longer term health and wellbeing.