Being a mom is tough. It's an often thankless job that places mental and physical stresses on us. But we love our kids with all our being - even after sleepless nights, picking up a thousand Legos after stepping on them as many times, or finally finishing our coffee after it's 3rd round in the microwave. We wouldn't change life with our kids for
anything - but heck, it sure would be nice to live that life with a little less pain in the neck (or ass)…literally.
And let's face it: pandemic life has placed an even increased burden on the
hazards of our jobs as moms. We have more multitasking to do, more surfaces to clean, more toys to pick up, more hours to carry our kids. And when something hurts, we work through it - because, hell, who else is going to do it? I've felt the toll, carrying around my 2-year-old-sized 15 month old (even though he is fully capable of running laps around me), and I'm a physical therapist. Who knows better. Who knows what to do for myself when some body part inevitably starts hurting. Through pregnancy and into new motherhood, I always find myself wondering - what the hell would I do if I couldn't fix myself? I know I get left sided low back and left shoulder/neck pain if I just heave my kiddo up on my hip and twist around to get stuff done with my other hand. But, I make sure to lift him properly and activate my core and glutes so I stand in a better position, thus alleviating the twisting and the pain. So if you've ever been in that situation, or just want to know ways to fight the good fight against mom life hazards, I'm here to offer some tips:
Carrying your child: How you carry your child changes as they grow. At any age, you want to make sure the arm/hand you are primarily holding them with has a bent elbow and a straight wrist. Otherwise, you can develop thumb, wrist, or elbow pain. You also want to do your best to carry your child close to your chest with their legs wrapped around you (as they are older). That's not always practical (let's be real), but switching the side you hold them on and making sure you can correctly activate your lower abdominal muscles to avoid sticking your hip to one side or arching way back will be a life saver to your back and shoulders.
Lifting your child: LIFT WITH YOUR LEGS! I'm sure you've heard that before, but it's true. Bend your knees and stick your bottom out like you're sitting in a chair, engage your lower abdominals, and then lift your child close to your body. You can also get into a half kneeling or lunge position and lift with your legs that way if it's more comfortable.
Carrying that damn car seat: Infant car seats are bulky and awkward. You want to keep the seat in front of you, hold with both arms, and avoid too much of a backward lean. If you're shorter like me and that just seems impossible because your legs hit the seat as you try to walk, you can carry to one side. Try to hook the seat handle on your arm (near your elbow) and brace your hand against the seat itself, so you have more stability and aren't leaning to the side too much. When putting child in the car, make sure you face the car seat to avoid too much twisting. You can also put one foot in the car to help take stress off your back when buckling them in.
Picking up all those toys!: If you can make it a game or have kids sort into fun bins, all the better! If you are stuck doing some or all of the clean up, though, make sure you use the same tips as lifting (it's just repetitive lifting of light objects!) Or, you can kneel/half kneel and bend at the waist (keeping your back straight) to pick up toys close to you; then, move to a different spot.
Changing diapers: Try your best to have an appropriate height changing table - baby should end up slightly below your elbows. You can also place one foot on a step stool to take stress off your low back (this one's good for doing dishes, too!) On the floor or on the go, keep child close to you. Avoid sitting back on your feet when kneeling, and bend at your waist with your feet staggered and widened when changing in the car. A backpack diaper bag will also keep weight more evenly distributed for better posture!
Bath time: What a pain in the…back! Use a kneeling pad (or memory foam bath mat!), bend at the waist as best you can, and keep your child close when lifting. You can also use that half kneel position again.
Breastfeeding/pumping: Make sure you have a supportive chair, or use pillows to help prop you on the couch. You want your low back to be supported with a slight arch to it, so that you can keep your upper back straighter and shoulders relaxed. Use a Boppy or Brest Friend pillow to help support baby when they are smaller.
Please note, these are generalized guidelines to help prevent pain or to improve mild
aches and pains. If you are experiencing symptoms that are not resolving, are interfering with daily life, or that you feel need more individualized guidance, seek out a physical therapist who can perform a comprehensive evaluation and provide you with an individualized treatment plan. Here's to making little changes to give our bodies the break our munchkins never will!
Kellie is a PA native who now resides in Montgomery County, MD. She is a physical therapist with Potomac Physical Therapy and Rehab, serving moms (and others) throughout MoCo. She is also mom to 15 month old Jaden.