Tips for all parents to be and new parents, let’s try and prevent back problems before they start. This is also useful advice if you currently have/had back pain and are currently trying to look after little ones!
Although there are many different types, colours and styles of cots, there are a few simple ways in which you can make sure that the one you choose is the right one for your baby, as well as for you and your partner’s backs! Choosing a cot that will fit into the baby’s room seems like an obvious statement but make sure, that when it is in place there is plenty of room for you to access the key areas without needing to twist or strain.
Find a cot which has sides that drop down to several levels and which has a base that moves up and down. This allows you to access the cot more easily and, as your baby grows, you can adjust the height they sleep at to keep them safe. The less you have to lift and lean to put your child into the cot, the better. A 5kg weight at your chest equates to five times that amount at arm’s length so placing your child in the cot, whilst keeping them as close as possible to you, is best for your back. In other words, you should be placing them straight across onto the mattress, rather than lifting up and over high side bars. Remember, you will be doing this thousands of times!
Securing the cot to the floor or wall is a good idea as toddlers can stand and rock the cot causing it to tip and, either injure your child or you as you dash to prevent it falling. When putting your baby in/out of the cot try and get yourself as low as possible and reduce having to lift with outstretched arms. This is important for your back but also improves safety when moving a baby. If your baby is old enough, encourage them to put their arms up in the air (they’re good at mimicking so see if they’ll copy you!). When their arms are up encouraging them to put their arms around your neck like a monkey. Supporting all their weight by lifting them from their bottom, move them as you need to. Having their arms around your neck helps to improve their centre of gravity to yours and helps to stabilise their movements too. It’s much easier to move a calm little one than one who is wriggling to get away.
Whether breast or bottle feeding, find a comfortable posture. Your arms should not be bearing the baby’s weight, so extra pillows or something like a ‘V’ pillow is a good idea. It is not uncommon for mums and dads to get neck strain from bending and twisting their necks to check that the baby is feeding properly. If this is a problem for you, install a mirror in front of your feeding chair or sit with a portable mirror in front of you, as this allows you to see what is happening, without putting a constant strain on your neck muscles. If you are able to, change position regularly.
Don’t forget that alternating feeding sides is a good idea when bottle feeding too, as it evenly spreads any strain. Feeding a child in a high chair can place strain on your back. Sit as close as possible in front of your child and adjust the height of the chair so that you are not leaning too high or too low. Make sure the high chair is placed straight in front of you so you avoid twisting to the side to feed.
Get down to your child’s level, rather than bending over. If sitting on the floor to play with your baby/toddler, try sitting on a cushion to help support your back and keep your back straight. Avoid spending too long kneeling down as this can put pressure on the knees. If you are kneeling, keep your back straight. In any position, it is easy to get absorbed in what you and your child are doing. Try to remember to change position regularly. Don’t bend to pick up toys, bend your knees. Watch your child and observe the natural squatting posture they use to pick things up! If they’re old enough make tidying up a game, have a race to see who can tidy up the fastest, ask them to find all the red toys first, practice counting whilst tidying up, making a job more fun means they’re more likely to engage in it and saves you the job too.
General Posture Advice
The fitter you are and the more muscle tone you have the less likely you are to injure yourself. Even in the current situation we’re still being encouraged to exercise, try and get out of the house for a walk/cycle once a day.
Parents of babies and children inevitably carry heavy bags! Using a rucksack style bag is best as you can spread the weight evenly across your back. Check the straps are tightened so that the load is held against your back and only take what you’re going to need.
Avoid high heels at all and wear comfortable, supportive shoes. In the house avoid slippers/flip flops/crocs as they tend to aggravate back problems. Do not sit for prolonged periods, take a regular break and, when sitting, let the seat take your weight and, if possible, keep as much of your body in contact with the chair so that your whole body is supported. Knees should be lower than your hips.
If you need any help do get in touch, happy to do what I can to support you!