Mom’s Guide to a Healthy Body

moms guide to a healthy body sm

Lifting your baby. Carrying a car seat. Holding your toddler in your arms. They can wreak havoc on your back, shoulders, and knees—unless you do them correctly. Here’s how.
 
When I became a parent, nobody told me how hard it would be—especially on my wrists, elbows, back and neck. In a word—ow! All the lifting, bending and twisting I do without thinking countless times a day to get my 8-month-old and my 3-year-old in and out of strollers, cribs, car seats and on and off changing tables is taking a physical toll in the form of creaky knees, achy elbows and a rebellious back.

I’m far from alone. “I’m constantly treating moms who are suffering from repetitive-stress injuries (RSIs) that result from the wear and tear of being a parent,” says Peggy Brill, a New York City physical therapist and author of The Core Program (Bantam 2001). RSIs are degenerative disorders caused by chronically using poor posture to perform everyday tasks, such as carrying your baby in an infant car seat on your forearm like a handbag. Such poor body mechanics place too much force on ligaments, muscles, joints, tendons and spinal discs and can be harmful if you do them often. Women are especially prone to RSIs because, unlike men, they naturally lack upper-body strength.

Luckily, having good posture and learning how to lift and carry your child properly can reduce your risk of injury. With that in mind, here are five body-breaking moves and how to fix them.
 
Lugging an Infant Car SeatUse two hands to carry an infant carrier
Don’t: Lean to the side and carry it on your forearm like a purse.

“This position stresses your back, shoulder, and—especially—that arm,” says Mary Ellen Modica, a physical therapist at Schwab STEPS Rehabilitation Clinics in Chicago.  “After my youngest child was born, I developed pain in my shoulders that wouldn’t go away,” says Sandy Cummings, a mother of three. “The doctor diagnosed it as bursitis.” The culprit: lugging around a 15-pound car seat with a baby inside.

“Carrying an infant car seat on your arm is equivalent to walking around with three or four full paint cans in one hand, something most people wouldn’t do, but yet, they’ll carry a car seat that way,” says Modica.
 
Do: Put both hands on the handle, bend your elbows, and carry the car seat in front of you. The less distance between your torso and what you’re carrying, the better for your back. Using both hands also helps distribute the weight evenly.
 
Lifting Your Baby From the Crib
Don’t: Lock your knees or hold your baby at arms’ length as you pick him up. “This puts extreme pressure on your spinal discs,” says Nicholas Warren, Sc.D., ergonomics coordinator at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.

Do: Plant your feet shoulder-width apart, lower the crib railing, and bend your knees. Then bring your baby as close to your body as possible before lifting him up.
 
Carrying a Toddler
Don’t: Balance your child on one hip. This can strain your back and the ligaments on that side of the body. In addition, as your arm presses against your child, your muscles continually contract, reducing blood flow. Over time, this can lead to trauma of the tissues in your arm and shoulder.

Do: Hold her in front of you with her legs wrapped around your waist. Keeping your child centered will help you stand upright—your spine’s natural position. Another option: Use a stroller (or encourage your child to walk) as often as possible.
 
Putting Your Child on Your Lap
Don’t: Lean forward while you remain seated. Why?

“As you lift, the pressure on your spinal discs multiples to three to ten times the weight of your child,” Modica says. “If you’re tall, for example, lifting a 20-pound toddler from the floor could put as much as 200 pounds of pressure on your back!”

Do: Get down on one knee with the other foot planted in front of you, and hold her as you move back into your seat. Or you’re your child climb into your lap.
 
Lifting Your Toddler from a Car Seat
Don’t: do the twisted car seat lift.

Worst-case scenario: With both your feet on the ground, you twist and lean into the car seat with your arms extended, your toddler at the end of them. Lifting your toddler that way can do a number on your knees, lower back, neck, shoulder, elbows and wrists.

Do: “Put one leg into the car and face the car seat as you’re putting your child in it,” says Traci O’Hara, a physical therapist at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Bergen County, New Jersey. You’ll take pressure off your back. If your car seat is in the middle of the back seat, climb in and face the car seat as you lift your child into it. Of course, positioning yourself properly can take a few extra seconds you don’t always have with a feisty toddler in tow.

Still, “it doesn’t have to be perfect all the time,” says Dalton. “But the more often you lift correctly, the better you’re able to tolerate it when you don’t,” she says.
 
Get Strong!
Did you know that strengthening your abdominal, back, pelvic, and hip muscles can reduce your risk of developing a repetitive-stress injury? Physical therapist Peggy Brill recommends practicing this simple exercise at least three times a week.

Lie on your back with your arms straight up toward the ceiling. Keeping your back flat against the floor, lift your legs over your pelvis and bend your knees at a 90-degree angle.

In one slow, smooth motion, bring your left knee toward your chest as you extend your right leg. Keep alternating legs as you incorporate your arms: When your left leg moves toward your chest, extend your left arm over your head, and vice versa. Repeat up to a count of 60. 


Sandra Gordon is a freelance journalist and author.
 

10 Steps to an Allergy-Safe School Year

10 Steps to an Allergy-Safe School Year

For parents of children with food allergies, starting a new school year can seem daunting. As the mom of a daughter with celiac disease, I know how overwhelming food allergies are at times. To ensur . . .

Read more

Navigating Mental Health and How to get Help for Your Child

Navigating Mental Health and How to get Help for Your Child

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) characterizes mental disorders as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave or handle emotions. The CDC says the most common ment . . .

Read more

Kids in Motion: 9 ways to keep the kids active

Kids in Motion: 9 ways to keep the kids active

If you’re concerned your kids will spend the summer lounging on the couch, playing video games and watching YouTube, take charge and get ahead of the situation. Too much idle screen time negativel . . .

Read more

Fun over fitness: Focus on Family Playtime

Fun over fitness: Focus on Family Playtime

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “Play is brain building, a central part of healthy child development, a key to executive function skills, and a buffer against the negative i . . .

Read more

How to Protect Kids from Anxiety Overload

How to Protect Kids from Anxiety Overload

Anxiety in kids is on the rise, and it doesn’t take too much digging to uncover some of the reasons why. With increased pressure inside and outside of the classroom, children’s performance is me . . .

Read more

Dangerous Trends: What Parents Need to Know about Drugs, Online Challenges and More

Dangerous Trends: What Parents Need to Know about Drugs, Online Challenges and More

Parents are often shocked when they hear some of the dangerous things teens do. Teens are generally quick to experiment with the latest trends, whether it involves eating something for an online “ . . .

Read more

Foods with Immune-Boosting Potential

Foods with Immune-Boosting Potential

Flu season is here, so take precautions — the flu can be more serious than most people think. Did you know that there are foods that can help reduce your chances of getting sick? Dr. Neal Malik of . . .

Read more

Heart Health: Screen Your Teen

Heart Health: Screen Your Teen

San Diego couple turns personal tragedy into triumph by offering free heart screenings to local teens and young adults through the Eric Paredes Save A Life Foundation. Eric Paredes was entering his . . .

Read more

Family Fun Runs and 5Ks in San Diego County

Family Fun Runs and 5Ks in San Diego County

Walk for Water (Mission Bay/Tecolote Shores North Park) - AprilBring your family and friends to Mission Bay to experience the trek that millions of women and children around the world make every d . . .

Read more

How to Support Kids When a Parent Has Cancer

How to Support Kids When a Parent Has Cancer

Many people know how to help friends or family members who have been diagnosed with cancer or another life-threatening or chronic disease. But when the diagnosed individual is a parent who is increasi . . .

Read more

What To Do When Mom Has the Flu

What To Do When Mom Has the Flu

Winter can be wonderful. Holiday traditions, family gatherings, travel … and germs. Unfortunately it’s also the peak season for colds and the flu, but busy moms can be especially susceptible if . . .

Read more

13 Ways to Comfort a Friend with Cancer

13 Ways to Comfort a Friend with Cancer

When a friend receives a cancer diagnosis, it is normal to worry and wonder how to help. Follow these suggestions to support and bring comfort to your friend as she faces cancer. Sharpen your listen . . .

Read more

Understanding Eating Disorders in Kids

Understanding Eating Disorders in Kids

Fueled by anxiety and depression, bullying, sports, and feelings of inadequacy in an appearance-driven culture, eating disorders continue to rise among young people. Early intervention is key to suc . . .

Read more

Just Say No to Vaping

Just Say No to Vaping

Get to know the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain potentially addictive, dangerous toxins. Would it surprise you to know that they come in kid-friendly flavors like bubble gu . . .

Read more

How Digital Devices Affect Eyes: What you need to know about Computer Vision Syndrome

How Digital Devices Affect Eyes: What you need to know about Computer Vision Syndrome

Does your technology-fixated child ever complain of dry, irritated eyes? What about blurry vision, headaches, light sensitivity, neck and shoulder pain, or fatigue? You might look to his electronic . . .

Read more

How to Lower Your Child's BMI

How to Lower Your Child's BMI

If your child’s pediatrician has alerted you that his body mass index (BMI) is too high, there are steps you can take to encourage a healthier lifestyle. Family Fitness
Your child will exempli . . .

Read more

Rejuvenate Yourself

Rejuvenate Yourself

You do it all every day: get the kids to school on time, work, shop, check homework, cook nutritious meals and chauffeur. Caring for everyone else often leaves little time for you—but rejuvenating y . . .

Read more

5 Asthma Superfoods

5 Asthma Superfoods

If you have asthma, keeping an emergency inhaler and other treatments on hand can help quickly relieve symptoms so you can breathe easier. But there is evidence that foods containing certain compoun . . .

Read more

How To Find the Right Pediatrician

How To Find the Right Pediatrician

Finding the right pediatrician for your family can daunting. But by researching options and defining priorities, you can find a pediatrician you feel confident and comfortable with. Here are some ti . . .

Read more

How to Balance Today's Tech and Your Child's Health

How to Balance Today's Tech and Your Child's Health

If you’re concerned about the amount of time your kids spend with technology, you’re not alone. There has been a rise in health-related issues in recent years among our youth. Reducing or elimin . . .

Read more

San Diego Family Magazine Logo

Be Family Informed – Sign up for our Newsletters below!