Bringing home a newborn baby is an exciting time for any parent. Despite the constant anxiety and sleepless nights, watching this precious little human grow and thrive is one of life’s greatest joys. But many parents are surprised to discover that day-to-day life with babies and toddlers can really take a toll on the body.
That’s why we’ve come up with a handy guide for dealing with the aches and pains of parenthood. From improper carrying techniques to awkward hunches over the crib, we’ve tackled some of the most common strains experienced by many parents. Discover new tips for preventing pain, and simple exercises to ‘babyproof’ your body!
Baby Ache #1
Pain in your knees and lower back from constantly lifting your child off the floor.
Does it feel like you’re bending over to pick up your child 24/7? Babies and toddlers spend most of their days low to the ground. Whether they’ve just mastered the art of crawling or are face down on the carpet for tummy time, one thing’s for sure: You’re repeatedly having to lower yourself to get down to their level. Picking your child up off the floor is a tremendous task that can wear down your muscles over time.
This repetitive motion often results in a lengthening of the back muscles and rounding of the shoulders. The lower back tends to contract as you manipulate your body to curl around your child. Over time, it can become more difficult to stand up straight.
One of the best ways to prevent this particular baby ache is to be more mindful. When picking up your baby or toddler from the floor, never bend at the waist. Instead, bend at the knees so you’re squatting down. And keep your back as straight as possible. Then lift and pull your child close to your body -- before straightening your knees to stand.
Strengthening Exercise: Pillar Stretch
This constant bending can affect your spine, causing a permanent hunch. We recommend a simple exercise that gets to the root of the problem by addressing posture.
- Stand next to a pillar or wall and lift your arm so it’s parallel to the floor
- Bend your arm at the elbow, so your fingers point toward the ceiling
- Perform a small lunge with your right leg, moving your body slightly forward
- Make sure your back is straight and your knee is slightly bent
- Repeat three to five times on each side
Baby Ache #2
Tightness in the lower back from getting your baby in and out of the crib.
Babies sleep a lot! A newborn can sleep up to 17 hours per day. And some babies are still taking multiple naps each day well into their first year of life. This means you’re likely spending a ton of time getting your child in and out of the crib. No matter how gracefully you try to do this, no doubt there’s a lot of awkward hunching going on. Not to mention the fancy acrobatics every parent does to transfer a sleeping baby without waking!
From shaky knees to strained forearms, the motions associated with getting your baby in and out of the crib can impact many areas of the body. Shorter parents might have a hard time getting their baby up and over the railing, while taller ones will find themselves bending down quite considerably into the crib. No matter your height, tightness in the lower back is a very common complaint for parents.
When putting your baby or toddler to bed, hold your child close to your chest. Then spread your feet approximately hip-width apart as you stand facing the crib. Bend your knees to squat slightly before lowering your child. Try to avoid twisting your body. Instead, tuck in your tailbone and tilt your pelvis so you can activate the abdominal muscles. This will protect your lower back and prevent tightness.
Strengthening Exercise: Pelvic Tilt
This exercise will help strengthen your pelvic muscles, making all those crib acrobatics a little less painful. Sitting on an exercise ball for this workout is key because it helps build stability throughout your core. Inhale to lift the tailbone up towards your chin, then exhale as you release and return to the starting position. Aim for 10 repetitions about four times per day.
Baby Ache #3
Tension in the neck and shoulders from pushing a stroller.
A stroller walk is a great way to get some fresh air with your baby. It’s also a nice way to bond with fellow parents in the community. But despite all the benefits, pushing a stroller for extended periods of time can be bad for the body. Tension in the neck and shoulders is a common parenthood complaint.
Many parents tend to flex and strain their wrists while awkwardly hunched over a stroller. Investing in an ergonomic model may help with posture alignment. But learning how to push a pram the correct way is often much more effective. Always walk with your hips close to the stroller. Make sure your elbows are slightly bent, and avoid pushing with your arms stretched out in a locked position.
Strengthening Exercise: Neck Release Stretch
This exercise will help alleviate neck tension, and can be performed sitting or standing. Slowly drop your left ear toward your left shoulder, keeping the right shoulder down. Then gently place your left hand on the right ear. Don’t pull, but just let the weight of the hand and forearm increase the stretch. Hold for five deep breaths, then release. Do this on the opposite side. Aim to perform this stretch at least three times a day.