The Physical Perils of Parenthood
Babies don’t come with instructions or a manual, and there doesn’t appear to be any health and safety guidance for how to deal with our little ones. Despite this, they seem to present us with a few obstacles when it comes to nurturing them, carrying them and caring for them as we gradually introduce them into the world.
When it comes to lifting and carrying in the workplace, there seems to be a plethora of help available. Maybe some of this advice can be adapted to our homes and childcare. Steve has come up with a few ideas on how best to look after ourselves when it comes to having a baby and bringing up children:
NAPPY CHANGING & BATHING
In the early days of having a baby there will be plenty of time spent changing nappies. Inevitably, this will involve leaning over your little darling in a flexed position. We all know that leaning forward a lot, especially in repetitive tasks, is not good practice. The key to doing this job well is in the preparation. If possible, have your changing table in an elevated position, so you don’t need to crouch down on the floor. Make sure you can place your baby in a safe place, where they won’t be able to wriggle out and fall. A good quality changing table could be a worthwhile investment, especially when considering the number of nappies you’ll be changing.
When it comes to bath time, there are limitations on what you can do regarding your position. While you baby is small enough, have a baby sized bath to ensure you’re not having to lean over your regular one. Filling the baby bath and then lifting it out onto the floor is not sensible, as water weighs a lot. Try finding an extender for your tap, so you can fill it in the position that you are going to be using it in.
If you find yourself kneeling a lot, and start getting soreness at the front of your knees, then try placing a towel or cushion on the floor and kneel on that – this should take some of the compressive pressure off the tendons at the front of the knee.
CARRYING YOUR BABY
It is common to find people holding a baby on one side and leaning slightly back, dropping the pelvis down to that side. This upsets the symmetry of the spine and can lead to increases in the pressure on the joints and nerves. Try to vary the way you hold a baby, swapping positions regularly and keeping as upright as possible.
Consider the options available for carrying your baby when you are out. Holding your baby in a sling will help keep them warm and cosy, and with them being close to you, it should reduce any strain on your body as well. It’s also a nice break from having the hassle of the pram.
Mums have had to go through a lot of physical changes before the baby arrives. It can be quite a journey back to fitness again, especially with the new time constraints you’ll face. Having a caesarean section may delay your return to activity and exercise as well. It is good advice to look to build up your fitness gradually, and focus on the key areas. Going to an post-natal exercise class can be highly beneficial, especially as you may be able to bring the baby along with you. Pilates is a great initial exercise - why not join one of our classes at the clinic. Brisk walking with the buggy can also work well.
BUGGY & CAR SEATS
The task of getting out and about has suddenly been made 10 times harder, and one that requires a well-oiled strategic plan. Plan what you need and give yourself plenty of time, as you’re more at risk of taking shortcuts that could cause injury if you rush. Take care with lifting a buggy or baby carrier in and out of the car. Position yourself to minimise the amount you lean forwards and twist.
When it comes to carrying the car seat, there’s a great trick I’ve been taught, where you avoid loading your upper and lower back as much as previously. See the image at the start of this article to see me demonstrate the most effective way to carry the car seat, and try it for yourself next time. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
CARRYING ON YOUR SHOULDERS
When your child is a little bit older, they will be times when they’re little legs become tired, and they need a pick up and carry. I have great fun swinging my daughter around while she’s on my shoulders, but it can take its toll physically. My tactic is to try and do it in small chunks, so it gives you a rest. If I know that we are walking a long way, I try and pre-empt the fatigue and carry my daughter a bit before she flakes out on the pavement. This way, when I need a break, she should still have some energy left for a bit more walking. Also, be careful with the mounting procedure. Again, avoid excessive bending and flexing. Having them stand on a small wall or bench and then climbing on can be useful.
Written by Steve Canning (with some help from his wife!) from the White House Physiotherapy clinic, father to 5-year old Florence & 2-week old Johnny
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