“stroller-itis”: parenting and posture go hand in hand

14 10 2009

IMG_0335This is an article I wrote as an assignment for one of my graduate classes in June, 2007 at UBC.  It emphasizes the importance of carefully considering your posture and protecting your joints when performing baby care activities.  But, I think it’s timeless advice, even if you’re past the baby stage – because let’s face it, we’re just not getting any younger!

You’ve been caught up in the wonderful bliss of becoming a new parent, bonding with your baby, and proudly walking along the sidewalk displaying your shiny new stroller … you are eager to show the neighbours that you can be an active and energetic new mom or dad, even on four hours of sleep!  However, one day you notice that your wrists ache when you lift your baby from the crib and your shoulders feel tightly knotted when you hover over your baby’s change table.  What happened to your youthful mobility?

Within a few months of my son’s arrival, this nagging discomfort started cropping up in my wrists, shoulders, and lower back.  I realized that the new activities I was performing as a new mom: nursing, changing diapers, lifting and carrying a car seat, and pushing the stroller with one hand (while holding a cup of coffee in the other hand!), were compromising my posture.  So, I coined the term “stroller-itis” to describe this cluster of baby-care aches and pains.

As a new mom or dad you want to get out of the house, stay fit, and feel energized.  However, pain resulting from baby care activities can hamper your ability to stay active, not to mention experiencing all the joys of parenthood.  In a recent North American study, researchers discovered a relatively high incidence of lower back, neck, and shoulder pain in parents with children under the age of four years associated with performing child-care tasks1.

Poor posture can be a major contributor to soreness in the shoulders, neck, and lower back.  The next time you pass by a mirror, observe your posture.  Do your shoulders seem to roll ahead of your earlobes?  Does your chin tend to protrude forward?  Are you slouching?

Incorporating a few basic strategies into your routine baby care activities and gear can help you develop better posture habits, limit aches and strains, and enjoy time spent with your little one.

Stroller Selection

Your baby’s stroller is your ticket to freedom from your home.  Find a stroller that is right for you and your lifestyle and practice good posture using these tips:

  • Select a stroller with a handle that is elbow-height or height-adjustable.  3-wheeled strollers tend to be more maneuverable, especially in winter conditions.
  • Relax your shoulders with your shoulder blades pressed down toward the middle of your lower back; make sure that the handle height of your stroller allows you to do this comfortably.  Keep your chin tucked and your abs firm.
  • Gently grasp the handlebar with your thumbs resting on top and your fingers and wrists relaxed.

Car Seat Handling

Inevitably, you will find it awkward to lift your infant “bucket” carrier in and out of the car without bending and twisting your lower back.  Not to mention the strain on your neck and shoulders as you tote the carrier around with you.  To avoid injuries related to lifting, ensure that you:

  • place one foot inside the door to alleviate strain on your lower back when taking the carrier in and out of your vehicle.
  • carry the “bucket” carrier by grasping the handle with two hands from the side, holding it close to your body.  Do not plan to tote the carrier for long distances – because believe me, it is only getting heavier!
  • bend at the knees and grasp the carrier at the head and foot when lifting the carrier from a low surface.  Keeping the carrier close to your body, lift, avoiding bending at the waist.

Change Table Set-Up

You will likely visit your baby’s change table on numerous occasions throughout the day.  A changing surface that is too high or too low can contribute to shoulder and neck pain, therefore:

  • ensure the changing surface is at least elbow height, or slightly higher if dad is six feet plus.
  • alternate your baby’s position on the change table to prevent excess strain on one side of the body.
  • use the flat surface of your hand when picking baby up to reduce strain on your small finger joints.

Feeding Time

Feedings are special interactive times with your baby.  Manage your posture by:

  • sitting in a comfortable chair with your back supported when nursing or giving a bottle.  Use a breastfeeding pillow to support your baby; relax your shoulders and practice tucking in your chin.
  • sitting at baby’s eye level to reduce strain on your back, neck, and shoulders when your baby is ready to eat in a high chair.

If you experience persistent discomfort after trying these strategies, or if you notice any redness or swelling, consult with your family physician to discuss options for treatment.

Creating healthy habits now will ensure good posture and pain-free parenting in the future so that you can be as active as your growing children!

1Sanders, M. J., & Morse, T. (2005). The ergonomics of caring for children: An exploratory study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 59, 285–295.

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2 responses

15 10 2009
amy

brilliant! very helpful.

16 10 2009
Ames

very timely indeed! the baby books so talk more about this.. dee maybe you should consider writing in one!

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