How to Stay Spine-Safe While Carrying Your New Baby

January 22, 2022

As a new parent, you spend a lot of time lifting and holding your little one—which is all the more reason to make sure you’re lifting and holding your baby in a way that’s safe on your spine.

To avoid hurting your neck, lower back, hips, or pelvic floor, try these four baby-carrying tips.

1. Master The Pick-Up

The classic advice to “lift with your knees, not your back” is classic for a reason, so be sure to use it when lifting your baby from the floor, crib, playpen, stroller, car seat, etc.

Here’s the basic spine-safe approach to picking up a baby:

  • Reach down to your baby by bending at your hips and knees—not your back. Instead, keep your back in a flat neutral position (not rounded, but not super straight either). Bonus tip: for added core stability, gently tighten your abdominal muscles by slightly bringing your bellybutton toward your spine before reaching down for your child.
  • Position your feet about shoulder-width apart. If helpful for balance, you can put your feet in a wide staggered stance.
  • Whenever possible, remove obstacles that are between you and your baby (e.g., high seat trays, crib side rails, etc.). This helps you avoid unnecessary strain and lifting. If placing your baby in or out of a car seat, try to sit next to the car seat and turn your body toward it instead of standing and leaning at the car door.
  • For carseat-carrying, loop your arm through the handle and support the base with your hand while keeping the seat close to your body.

Lastly, don’t hold your breath, as this can increase pressure on the pelvic floor muscles and may contribute to problems like urinary incontinence, back pain, and pelvic pain.

2. Don’t Overdo It With the Hips

New parents often carry their babies on their hips, either by sticking their hips out to one side or leaning their upper bodies back with their baby at their front. Some  call this “hanging on your ligaments,” and while it’s easy to do, it’s not a great long-term strategy. If repeated over time, carrying a growing baby on one hip can strain your back and pelvic floor.

So, avoid the temptation to always put your baby on your hip. When you do use this technique, keep your hips in line with your shoulders and spine, and be sure to switch your baby from side to side often to help even out the load.

3. Use Baby Carriers

There are SO many baby carriers and baby wraps on the market right now that suit a wide range of budgets and personal preferences. This is great news, because properly fitting baby carriers provide an ergonomically safe way to carry your infant while keeping your hands free. Look for wide, comfortable shoulder straps and belts that secure around your waist.

4. Support Yourself As You Breastfeed or Bottlefeed

When feeding your little one, sit with good back support. Use pillows or rolled up blankets under your arms to help you hold your baby close to the breast or bottle. You can also do some gentle neck bends, shoulder circles, and other movements before and after nursing to prevent strain in the neck, shoulders, and upper back.

Are You a New Parent With Back Pain?

Our Bethesda and McLean physical therapy staff offers postural re-education, strengthening exercises, manual therapy, and more to help parents stay healthy. Call 301-770-7060 now to schedule an appointment at ITR Physical Therapy.

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