How to Carry a Baby Without Hurting Your Back (or Wrist or Hips)
Learn the pain-free way to tote your tot
After lugging an enormous pregnant belly around on swollen feet, plucking your sweet bundle from her crib should be a cinch. Then why is your wrist on fire and your back out of whack? Welcome to the world of new mom aches and pains.
It’s not your newborn’s weight causing a crick in your neck. It’s the sheer number of times you lean over and twist in order to nurse, rock or wrangle those fat folds into the car seat. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, postpartum moms may be lifting their tots, who usually weigh between 7 and 10 pounds, up to 50 times a day. And since infants typically triple their birth weight in the first year, the soreness you’re experiencing in the hips and shoulders may only get worse.
“Because picking up a newborn many, many times a day can result in overuse injuries, it’s important to start to get back into shape as soon as you’re cleared by your doctor,” says Elizabeth Matzkin, MD, assistant professor in the department of orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Medical School.
Ease the pain by strengthening your core and learning the best ways to hold and carry your baby.
A wrenched wrist
Your whole body may be reeling post birth, but once you’re back home the most common new mom pain is usually connected to the wrist. “The pain you feel here is a type of tendinitis called De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which is an inflammation of the tendons around the wrist and thumb,” explains Sabrina Strickland, MD, an orthopedist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
This delicate section of your arm isn’t built to bear your chubster’s bulk. “The muscles that power the wrist are very small and aren’t used to picking up 8 to 20 pounds of weight,” she says.
The fix: Keep the wrist in a straight, neutral position and use your full arm (elbows and shoulders) to pick up your tot. “Avoid lifting your baby with the wrist and fingers pointing towards the floor,” says Matzkin. If you do end up with an inflamed wrist, treatment usually consists of wearing a brace or, in some cases, getting a cortisone injection.
The classic baby-on-hip pose is one you should retire. Jutting out a hip to balance your babe may feel fine, but too much of it can send pain shooting through the opposite side. “In order to hold your infant on the hip, you also end up with a potentially painful curve in the spine,” explains Strickland.
The fix: If you prefer to tote your tot this way, alternate sides. “This will help avoid unnecessary strain on the muscles you’re using to support your child and will help you achieve better balance,” says Matzkin.
Sore shoulders and a knotty neck
Hunching over to nurse your newborn can do a number on your upper back and neck. “Never try to breastfeed or give a bottle in an uncomfortable or awkward position,” warns Matzkin.
The fix: Arrange several pillows under the baby to raise her to your breast instead of bending down to meet her mouth. A nursing pillow works well for some mothers, as does sitting upright in a chair rather than slouching on the couch. “Keep your spine and neck as straight as possible in order to maintain good ergonomics,” says Strickland.
An aching back
Leaning over the crib, diapering on the floor, wrestling with the car seat and toting your tot all day are disastrous for the back. “Reaching into the crib to lift your baby out usually means having to stretch the arms to clear the railing, and it’s this maneuver that strains the back,” says Strickland.
Holding your baby too far from your body means you need to exert more force, which can strain your arm and back muscles. Twisting your torso while lifting can also do a number on your lower back.
The fix: For this one, it’s all about your legs and core. “Always lift with the large, strong muscles of the legs, bend at the knees — not the waist and use your midsection for stability,” says Strickland.