Caring for a newborn requires quite a bit of physical work. Think of lifting, carrying, breastfeeding, pushing your baby's stroller and even changing his diaper. Overtime, these repetitive movements can put a strain on your muscles leading to back, neck, and hand pain common in new parents. Here's how you can prevent them with just a few changes in how you hold your baby:
1. Back pain
“Caring for an infant puts stress on your back. Lifting your baby can be especially hard on your spine,” said the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). For parents of newborns, you may be lifting your 7- to 10-pound baby up to 50 times a day!
How to prevent it When picking up your baby
“Bring your baby close to your chest before lifting,” said the AAOS. Keeping your baby close to your spine as much as possible prevents back pain.
Bend at your knees not at your waist when picking up your baby from the floor. “Squat down, tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your legs,” the AAOS added.
When holding your baby There are a number of ways to hold your baby that’s comfortable for both you and your little one. Whichever one you prefer:
Try to always stand with your hips even and your pelvis in line with your body, said Stephanie Lead, a physical therapist specializing in postpartum issues, to LifeHacker. “Don’t jut your hip out to one side, which throws your hip, back and neck out of alignment.”
When feeding your baby Breastfeeding can cause upper back pain. To avoid this:
Don't bend over to feed your baby. Bring your baby to your chest instead. “Pull your shoulder blades back to support your neck and upper back,” said Leaf.
Choose an upright chair with a high back too, instead of the soft sofa, as this provides more support.
How to find relief
“The most important remedy for a strained back is rest, which means lifting your baby as infrequently as possible,” said Dr. George Piligian, an occupational medicine specialist, to Parents.
Cold or hot compress, whichever you prefer, can bring immediate relief.
The AAOS advised exercise such as stretching or yoga. “Speak with your obstetrician about when you can start exercising again and what kinds of exercises are safe for you to do. Discuss what goals would be realistic in terms of returning to your pre-pregnancy weight and activity level.”
For pain that’s severe and doesn't ease, consult a doctor.
“This is one of the most common postpartum complaints because mothers spend so much time seated, leaning forward, and gazing down at the baby during feeding sessions,” physical therapist Heather Jeffcoattold Parents.
Couple this with the “looking-down” culture brought by the digital age (e.g., phone and computer screens) and moms and dads get no break from constantly looking down, said physical therapist Vijay Dayaani in an article for Harvard Health Publishing. Ultimately, the more that can be done at eye level, the better, he said. So, aside from adjusting the height of you computer screen, here's what else to do when it comes to parenting:
How to prevent it
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Look up from time to time while feeding your baby, advised nurse and lactation consultant Wendy Haldeman. A pillow to raise your little one will prevent you from hunching over so much and will mean you won't have to carry and bear her weight while feeding.
Change your baby on a surface that doesn't require you to hunch over. This is either a low surface that you can reach when kneeling down or a taller surface around the height of your belly button. This way, you're not putting undue stress on your neck and back, said Leaf.
How to find relief
For bad neck pain, try a cold or hot compress (whichever you prefer) “once in the morning, at noon, and at night for 15 minutes each time,” said Steve Calechman, in an article for Harvard Health Publishing. “For anything acute and severe, ice every hour for 10 minutes for up to 72 hours.”
For pain that's severe and doesn't ease, consult a doctor.
It may surprise you, but hand and wrist pain is common among new moms and dads. It’s actually called De Quervain's tenosynovitis, or “mother's wrist,” characterized by pain around the hands and wrists and when making a fist or rating the wrist.
“If you ignore this problem in one hand, you run the risk of overusing the other, and then both hands will be affected,” said Dr. Robert E. Markison, a hand surgeon and associate clinical professor at the University of California, to Parents.
How to prevent it
Avoid bending at the wrist. For example, when you hold your baby's head, keep your forearm, wrist, and hand in a straight line.
When picking up your baby when she's lying down, instead of lifting her by the armpits (which strains your hands), try scooping her up with your whole hand, keeping your fingers together, advised Rachel Foley, a pediatric occupational therapist, in an article for CanDoKiddo.
Again, avoid bearing all of your baby's weight when breastfeeding. “Many women cite breastfeeding to be irritating, so if you're nursing, be careful to use a pillow for support so that the full weight of baby's head isn't resting in your hand,” said Dr. Michelle G. Carlson, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand and upper extremities, told Parents.
How to find relief
“Icing your wrist frequently and taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can be helpful,” said Dr. David M. Auerbach, a hand surgeon at the Southern California Orthopedic Institute, also to Parents.
If pain persists, talk to a medical professional who may prescribe pain relievers or recommend a splint to immobilize the thumb and ease discomfort.