Before becoming a new parent, did anyone warn you that caring for an infant puts a great deal of stress on your back?
Initially, you may be lifting a 7 to 10-pound baby up to 50 times a day. By the time the child is a year old, you’re lifting and carrying around approximately 17 pounds. Two years later, you will be lifting a 25 to 30-pound child.
And it’s all so back-breaking! Bending down to pick your new baby up from the cot or car seat at awkward angles. Plus, having to prepare meals, wash yourself and hang out washing all whilst supporting a baby on your hip.
During pregnancy, hormones are released to loosen the ligaments and muscles around the pelvis and these changes can take a while to settle down again after childbirth.
This leaves the lower back vulnerable as there is less support from the hips and abdominal muscles, and of course labour itself and C-sections create their own problems
Add in a lack of sleep and no time to exercise, is it any wonder that so many new mums suffer from back pain?
I’ve put together the following tips to try to minimise the risks of getting a bad back at what should be such a happy time.
1. Baby Carrying
When possible, use a sling that holds your baby centrally and symmetrically across your front. Look for one with padded shoulder straps and a hip belt, which helps distribute the weight evenly. When you don’t have a sling, alternate your carrying side to avoid strain patterns developing. Take a break from carrying and let others take the load whenever they are around to help. As your little one gets bigger, encourage them to move themselves as much as possible.
Sit in a supportive chair and use pillows to help your posture. A small pillow behind your lower back will help maintain its natural curve, and a cushion under the arm supporting your baby’s head will prevent strain in your arm and upper back. If you’re breastfeeding, use pillows to position your baby in an optimal feeding position, rather than trying to move your breast towards your baby.
3. Nappy Changing
Use a baby changing table or place the changing mat on top of a chest of drawers. Of course, you may need to adapt your set-up when your baby shows signs of starting to roll. If you always change your baby’s nappy on the floor, your back will not thank you – or your knees for that matter.
Try to lift heavy items, for example a car seat with the baby in it, by bending and straightening your knees, rather than bending forwards from your back with straight legs. Even better, if you have a companion with you, delegate.
This is probably the most important tip, but may feel the most difficult to find time for. Walking, swimming, gentle Pilates and postnatal yoga are all excellent forms of exercise for new mums. Movement is so important for a healthy back. If you can’t make a regular class, consider getting a DVD, subscribing to an online course, watching YouTube videos or just doing a simple 10-minute exercise routine at home. Exercises that gently mobilise the spine and strengthen the abdominal and core muscles are ideal.
Your body needs sleep and rest to rejuvenate and heal. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done with a new baby. Here are some suggestions that might help:
Ask your partner to do a night feed
Nap in the day if/when your baby naps
Temporarily sleep in separate beds to avoid waking each other if one gets up earlier
Go to bed early
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept help if it is offered. Many new mums feel they should be managing everything perfectly by themselves. This is an impossible feat and could cause a strain on you both physically and mentally.
If you have a cot that has adjustable heights, use the highest level until your baby can pull themselves up. Some cots have a side that you can slide up and down, which can be useful to prevent straining your back.
Current guidelines state that paracetamol and ibuprofen are safe to take when breastfeeding. However, recent evidence suggests that paracetamol has little effect on back pain, so ibuprofen may be a better bet. Always take ibuprofen with food to protect your stomach. Your GP may be able to advise on other pain medications that are safe to take if you’re breastfeeding.
10. Get Professional Help
If these tips don’t resolve your back pain, seek help from a back pain specialist, such as an osteopath. An osteopath will assess what’s causing your pain and either use gentle hands-on techniques to relieve muscle and joint tension or refer you for further tests if necessary. Osteopaths will also advise on specific exercises and lifestyle adaptations to do at home.
For more information on pregnancy-related issues or to book an appointment in Bridgnorth or Shrewsbury, please call 01746 761050.