So, you’ve just had a baby and now the most awesome task remains ahead of you – getting back to normal! Of course, some things will never be the same again – that includes your body!
During your pregnancy, you body did some amazing changing. A hormone called relaxin was responsible for the loosening of your joints and connective tissue to allow the baby to grow. But, just because your baby is now an official part of your family doesn’t mean these hormones are done just yet!
The weeks following delivery also create tumultuous havoc on your system! After all, childbirth, no matter what the method, is not easy on your body – it needs several weeks to recover. And those hormones that caused the laxity in your body are still hard at work! This phase is commonly known as the “postpartum” stage.
People frequently are familiar with the term “postpartum blues”, or the emotional roller coaster new mommies experience – from exuberant highs to all-time lows, postpartum blues can make you feel sad, anger or fear. Severe cases often need medical attention as postpartum depression can set in, a serious condition that can affect your activities of daily living.
But, that’s not all! Physical changes often linger for several weeks. Immediately following the birth of your baby, for example, your ligaments are at their longest and your joints are at their most unstable – this makes you very vulnerable to strain and injury! The pains you felt when you were pregnant are often experienced for several weeks after birth. That’s why it’s essential to understand and utilize baby ergonomics!
Ergonomics is described as the scientific, interdisciplinary study of individuals and their physical relationship to their environment. It is taking a look at your world and how you do things. Ergonomics considers your body mechanics!
More than likely, we are all familiar with “proper lifting techniques” – you know, lift with your legs, don’t lift and twist and carry items close to your body, right? But how does that relate to one tiny little baby?
Believe it or not, that one little bundle of joy can exasperate some of the physical pains you might have experienced during pregnancy, such as back pain!
We’ve already established that your hormones are still going crazy, but there are other problems, such as increased weight, enlarged breasts and weakened abdominal muscles. Put these all together with poor body mechanics when taking care of your baby – and you have increased pain!
But, knowing the right way to do everyday baby care just may crunch pain!
Feeding. Okay, so your physically and mentally exhausted – and those middle-of-the-night feedings are not helping! Of course it is imperative to arrange yourself in the most comfortable position when feeding your baby, but slouching is a no-no! Trying to keep your spine aligned is the best preventative medicine for back pain. And even though slouching may feel better, it is reinforcing weak muscles and pain.
Use pillows to prop yourself or your baby. Place a pillow under the baby to position her at a comfortable level near your breast. A pillow in the crook of your arm, under the baby’s head will also elevate the baby, making good posture more comfortable.
But, your back is not the only concern while feeding. New parents often feel anxiety, especially with feedings – are they getting enough? Am I doing it right? Am I holding too tight? This added apprehension makes it all too easy to shove your shoulders up into your neck – a cause of much neck pain and headaches! Keep your shoulders down and relaxed. The more you are relaxed and comfortable, the easier feedings become! And, if you feel fatigued, don’t hesitate to shift positions, even if your baby has fallen asleep!
Lifting. Okay, so your baby probably weights no more than a sack of potatoes – that doesn’t mean you can’t get hurt from lifting her! No matter what weight you are trying to lift, you should always use your legs. Bend your knees and keep your back as straight as possible as you lift her from the crib! And be sure to avoid awkward reaching, and above all, twisting! These movements will intensify or can even cause back pain!
Diapering/Bathing. You should always try to diaper and bath your baby on a secure surface waist high. Any lower or higher creates an awkward position for you, thus increased risk for pain! If less-than-adequate equipment is available, always put your baby’s safety first, but be mindful of your own injury risks!
Strollers. Strollers have come a long way in recent years – some are extremely high-tech. But high-tech is not a necessity, but some things are. For example, adjustable handles make it easier for you, your husband or big brother to push the baby without putting themselves at risk for injury. Handles should be positioned waist high when possible. Have fixed handles? Purchase inexpensive handle extenders available at any baby store!
Remember your body mechanics when you are lifting your baby out of the stroller. The easiest method is to kneel on one knee to bring yourself down to the correct level.
Carriers. Infant seats do double duty these days by protecting your child while she is in the car, plus providing a safe seating system that can be used in stores or for safe carrying. But, they tend to be awkward. Look for infant seats with removable carriers with a twisted handle (one that is in the same plane as your baby). This way, you can carry the somewhat heavy carrier with your precious cargo with ease!
Carriers also include devices you can strap to your body. Front carriers are best, but care must be taken to keep your back in the proper alignment – arching your back (similar to when you were pregnant) will increase back pains and other muscle aches. Backpack carriers are okay, but the possibility of improper posture increases – after all, you wouldn’t carry a box on your back! If you use a backpack carrier, don’t slouch forward to accommodate the extra weight – try to keep your posture as normal as possible.
Though most women need a few weeks after delivery to return to normal, proper body mechanics are imperative for everyone, especially those prone to muscle aches and pains. If pain continues to be a problem, consult with your physician. It is possible you may need a regular fitness routine to regain pre-pregnancy conditioning – or may try relaxation techniques, such as a massage to alleviate muscle spasms and pain.