It’s easy for a mother of a pre-walking child to resemble a Sherpa as she lugs diaper bags, baby bags, carriers and her child from place to place. All of this extra weight can take a toll, not only on nerves, but even more so on backs.
Kalli Sanders first noticed her back pain when her daughter, Grace, was an infant.
“As I started swinging her infant car seat in and out of the car, I realized it was a motion that used new muscles,” Sanders says. “I had had other abdominal surgery before I was pregnant, and then with the pregnancy those core muscles weren’t able to support my back very well.”
Using car seat carriers to carry children can increase the likelihood of back problems, says Mikell Adams, of Adams Chiropractic and Wellness Center.
“They not only change the center of gravity for the one carrying them, but they also place the baby low and close to the ground, further away from contact with the parent,” Adams says.
And, she says, parents typically carry everything using their nondominant side, which can easily exacerbate lower back pain.
When Beth Murphy’s second child, Molly, was born, she soon found herself unable to get out of bed because of back pain. She began working on strengthening her core and back muscles with pilates and sun do, a Korean exercise that increases internal energy as well as strengthens the physical body.
“That continues to keep me strong and flexible,” Murphy says. “I literally could not carry Molly until I strengthened my back.”
Strength and flexibility are the two main components of a healthy back, Adams says.
Adams also suggests using a carrier, such as the Baby Bjorn, Ergo or other back or cuddle carriers, which allow the child to be carried higher on the body and helps to keep the parents’ center of gravity in alignment.
“I also often tell parents that when their kids are old enough to walk, rather than picking them up, let them crawl up on you, or sit down and let them get in your lap, then stand up with them,” Adams says.
Sanders has learned to remain conscious of how she lifts Grace and to use proper lifting techniques. She also often plays with and changes Grace on the floor, rather than lifting her to a changing table.
Adams also suggests, when possible, have someone who doesn’t have back pain carry the baby for a while.