All pregnancies are different. All babies are different. You know what’s not different? The repetitive stresses of caring for your new little bundle of joy and the subsequent new parent aches, pains, and injuries.
Sadly I’ve yet to talk to a new parent who was given a heads up about proper parent ergonomics… no birthing class, midwife, OB/gyn, or fitness professionals seem to even really mention much about it. Often postnatal care is baby-centered: proper positioning for their best latch, proper leg placement for healthy hips in a carrier, the ideal angle to avoid flat head or reflux. Now don't get me wrong, all of these are incredibly important for our babies' health and development, but what about the parents? Who teaches us how to take care of our own bodies in our new, incredibly demanding (and rewarding), role as new parents?
All babies need to be fed, held, transported, comforted, and played with, and these are just the basics. I had a friend who’s baby would only fall asleep if he was manually swinging him… in his carseat! The lengths we’ll go to to keep our babies happy, calm, quiet, or asleep, can get pretty crazy. The resulting wear and tear on our bodies, as parents, is no joke when you consider that all of these tasks are repeated multiple times a day, every day, for many many days (years seems overwhelming to say).
Now, any parent that’s gotten the flu or stomach bug knows that babies’ needs don’t just magically diminish when we’re not feeling well. The same goes for when we get hurt. My baby is a sweet loving little angel but she doesn’t care that I have a torn rotator cuff. She still needs me to carry her to and from the car, get her in and out of the crib, feed her, and change her diapers. So what are we supposed to do? How do we help our bodies heal and not make things worse?
Introducing the ABCDE’s of not breaking your body while still keeping your baby happy and healthy!
A is for Awareness
Awareness is key. Knowing that we are putting repeated stresses on our bodies is an important first step in managing the potential for injury and system breakdown. Think about how you push the stroller, how you carry the carseat, adjust your baby carrier, nurse/feed your infant. What does your posture look like in each of these situations? Can it be improved? (Hint: yes it can)
B is for Breathe
Take a big, full, 4 count inhale and 4 count exhale. Oxygen is required to create energy. Feeling sluggish? Patience running low? Aside from the lack of fulfilling sleep, you’re probably also breathing from your chest ( = more like a 1 count inhale/exhale = less effective/efficient = less energy). Those “mom shoulders”? Yeah, they’re cramping your ribcage and actually decreasing the space your lungs have to expand. When this happens, your neck and shoulders take over to help lift the ribs, forcing you into a chronic shallow breath cycle… neck tension, headaches anyone?
C is for Connection
Turn off auto-pilot and try to connect to your movements. Next time you bend over to pick up your little munchkin, don’t just round over. Take a minute to shift your weight into your heels, bend at the waist, and use your legs to lift. When you’re breastfeeding, put away any distractions (phone, tv, etc) and just focus on sitting with better posture (I say better because bf’ing with perfect posture is near impossible, at least for a prolonged amount of time). There are many ways to interact with your baby and actually build your body up, rather than continue to break it down, you just have to tune in and dedicate some time to learning better movement patterns.
D is for Don’t wait
This is not a temporary set back to your fitness and health goals. Parenting is not a temp job, it’s a long-term position. This is your life for the foreseeable future so be proactive. Make adjustments now so you don’t have to pay ten-fold later. Your body, and your baby, will thank you for it! Happy Parent = Happy Baby!
E is for ErgoMOMics (appropriate for all caregivers but ergoparentomics doesn't have quite the same ring)
Born out of necessity and inspired by real life, this work is for parents-to-be and new/seasoned parents alike.
These sessions/classes will help you to prepare for the stresses of caring for your newborn and offer tips on ergonomic-friendly baby gear to have on your registry.
Have a new baby at home?
Learn how to adjust your home space and baby gear for a more ergonomic experience that will help alleviate stresses that contribute to chronic pain and injuries.
Already months (or years) in?
It’s never too late to learn more efficient movement patterns that can not only prevent further breakdown, but also help to build your body up.
For more information on proper ergonomics for parenting-related tasks, modifications to baby gear, breathing techniques, practical exercises for new parents, and beyond, come to one of my workshops, class series, or schedule an appointment at my studio in OB/Point Loma or on location for an in-home assessment! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, questions, or workshop requests.
3679 Voltaire Street, Suite D
San Diego, CA 92106