How to Prevent Back Pain in New Mums

As I’m sure you all know back pain in pregnancy is very common – with up to 40-50% of women suffering with back pain during their pregnancy. Usually the pain will diminish after 2-3 weeks but it may begin to return with the strains of lifting and carrying your child. Initially you may be lifting a 7-10 pound baby but you are doing this up to 50 times a day, and this weight will increase to around 17 pounds after a year and then 25-30 pounds after 2 years. This highlights how careful you have to be when lifting your child.

Reduce the risk of developing or worsening back pain by following these simple measures:

FEEDING YOUR BABY

Feeding can often lead to problems in the mid area of your back, especially if you are breastfeeding. Choose a chair you can sit in with your feet flat on the floor, with your bottom right back into the back of the chair so the chair can support your lower back. If the chair is too deep you will end up slouching – if this is the case simply place a cushion behind your back to shorten the depth.

Try not to sit with your legs crossed as this will put a twist through your low back and pelvis, which if you are still breastfeeding are still vulnerable due to the high levels of a hormone known as relaxin. Holding your baby for long periods whilst feeding can put strain on your arms and shoulders so use a pillow under your baby to take some of the weight away from your arms

In essence when you have a chair that is right for you, you should be able to sit upright and feel comfortable without having to constantly remind yourself to ‘sit up’

CARRYING YOUR BABY

Carrying babies around for extended periods of time is part of motherhood and gradually your back and arms will get stronger, and it is less tiring. When babies are older, most of us tend to carry them around on our hip – this is not ideal for your posture, because when carrying your child in this way you need to stick that hip out to the side, putting strain on your lower back

So what can you do about it? This is difficult because until your child is good at walking there is not much you can do to avoid carrying this way. Instead focus on swapping which hip you carry your child on. Although one side will feel more natural it is important to make a conscious effort to carry your child on both sides.

LIFTING YOUR BABY IN AND OUT OF THE COT

Bending will put a lot of mechanical strain on your low back and with the loss of good abdominal tone that comes with recently having had a baby this strain increases. The strain is greatly reduced if you remember to engage your tummy when you pick up and put your baby down as the tummy muscles act like a corset to support and stabilise your lower back. Bending your knees slightly to lower yourself down towards the cot means you will have to bend less to pick your baby up, reducing the strain

When your baby is crying it is only natural to want to pick them up and comfort them immediately but it only takes a split second to remember to engage your tummy muscles and bend your knees Another tip is to try and chose a cot with sides that drop, reducing the amount of bending needed. Make sure the drop sides can be operated with one hand only.

NAPPY CHANGING

Set up your nappy changing station so you can get to everything you need without bending or twisting. Changing your baby at worktop height is better than on the floor

BATH TIME

Leaning over a normal household bath will again put a lot of strain on your back. A baby bath on the floor or better still on a stand will reduce this. For a bit of extra bonding why not get into the bath together – just makes sure the temperature is suitable for your baby and be careful when stepping in and out

CAR SEATS

Do not carry your baby in his car seat for prolonged periods of time. Most 1st stage car seats need to be carried out to your side, putting a tremendous amount of strain on your spine, instead use a push chair or a front carrier

EXERCISE

As an osteopath I see many mothers that come to see me with shoulders, upper back and neack pain. In almost every case the mothers have developed very strong, but short chest muscles that pull her shoulders forward, resulting in constant pressure on the back muscles. To those who are already feeling that I would advise doing a few stretches to help elongate the chest muscles.

I have found that if stretching is going to become more than a good intention it has to become a daily habit – find a time where you can attach the stretching to a particular activity eg when your baby is lying under their baby gym or just before you go to bed. Developing a daily habit of doing a little stretching is a must if you want to feel good and maintain good mobility in your body.

Getting back into doing some regular exercise like swimming or pilates is a great way to help you regain your strength and fitness and is key to having the stamina to cope with young children. I encourage all mums to try and go for at least one swim a week – backstroke is fantastic as it releases the tension at the front of the shoulders. Something is better than nothing so even if you can only go for a short swim then that is great. Regular brisk walks are also a great way of exercising without the costs!

WALKING WITH YOUR BABY

Be aware of your posture when you take your baby for a walk – it is very easy to have a slouched posture if the handlebars of your buggy are too low. When the handlebars of your buggy are correctly adjusted you will naturally walk more upright. It is well worth spending a few moments to check whether your buggy has adjustable handles

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