So, you just had your first baby and you’re all excited to be home and start your new life as a family, but the first time you bend over to lift her out of the bassinet…oops, there goes your back.
“Many moms are surprised to find that day-to-day living with babies and toddlers can cause a lot of physical wear and tear—shoulder strain, neck tightness, tension headaches, knee pain, and lower back stiffness,” said Parents.
Yes, back pain after giving birth is a common reality for many new moms. Between the changing hormones, muscles and ligaments that are trying to get back to their pre-baby shape, and all the lifting, bending, turning and twisting you now need to do, it’s no wonder back pain can flare up in protest. And that pain may increase as the baby grows.
“Caring for an infant puts stress on your back. Lifting your baby can be especially hard on your spine,” said the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). “Initially, you may be lifting the 7- to 10-pound baby up to 50 times a day. By the time your child is a year old, you are lifting and carrying 17 pounds. Two years later, you will be lifting a 25- to 30-pound child. In addition, many new parents spend a lot of time bending over their babies and holding that position for long periods of time.”
Here are some tips for dealing with back pain as a new mom.
- Lift Correctly
“Lift with your legs!” It’s what you’ve been told all your life, and it’s especially important to heed now that you are lifting another human being. Putting the emphasis on your legs by bending your knees and letting those muscles take the brunt of the weight can take the pressure off of your spine and get rid of back pain.
- Bend Carefully
Whether you’re picking your baby up from the floor, the crib, or the stroller, the key is to get as close as you can, kneel instead of bending, and move the baby as close to you as possible. Bending and leaning over can put undue stress on your back. And remember when you stand back up, use your legs!
- Carry Your Baby With Care
There may be days when you have to hold your newborn for hours—and days when it just feels like hours! Either way, you want to make sure you’re protecting your baby, and yourself.
WebMD has provided a video that displays the best way to hold your baby so you don’t end up in pain. Hint: It’s all about your posture! Keep in mind you may also experience back pain from carrying your baby in other ways, like pushing a stroller. Walking close to the stroller with “your elbows close to your body” can help, said Parents.
Wearing your baby can also create back strain. Make sure you buy a quality baby carrier with straps that allow you to adjust the the baby’s weight to carry it between your shoulders and hops, with your baby close to your chest.
- Feed Without Hunching Over
Whether you’re nursing or bottle feeding, you’ll probably find yourself hunching over at some point. This position can lead to pain in the neck and down your back. Concentrating on sitting up straight—“a small pillow or rolled towel behind your lower back”—will help, said Parents. A nursing pillow that helps raise the baby up to breast level is also key.
- Stretch it Out!
Your body may not feel the same after your baby is born. Some easy stretches, from hip rolls that help open up your back, to the basic yoga move downward facing dog, can “soothe common sore spots and help ease you back into a fitness program,” said WebMD.
Beyond basic stretching, there are some exercises that strengthen your back as well as your abdominal muscles, which support your back. Not to mention your arms and thighs to help you lift and carry your baby. Check out a few of them on Babycenter. And be sure to ask your doctor before you resume any exercise routine after the birth of your baby.
- Rest Up
The old saying goes, “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” and it’s the No. 1 recommendation from “pro” parents to new parents for a great reason: rest and rejuvenation are critical for a new parent’s health—physical and mental. Your body can start to break down from lack of sleep—especially with the kind of sleep deprivation new parents experience. It’s also important to remember that the body may take time to heal in unexpected ways, and doing too much, too soon can be dangerous.
“Women should remember that shifting hormone levels in late pregnancy cause ligaments and joints to relax; these areas remain more flexible even in the weeks after birth and are more prone to injury,” said Livestrong.
- See a Doctor
If you’ve experienced a back injury or are suffering from chronic back pain that isn’t going away despite your efforts to protect your back, it might be time to find a back specialist and learn more about minimally invasive procedures.
Advancements in minimally invasive surgical procedures have changed the game for those who suffer from chronic back pain. Long surgeries and recoveries associated with traditional procedures can now be a thing of the past. Minimally invasive back surgery cuts back on the length of the operation, the size of the incision, the time spent in the hospital, and the time spent recovering. Many minimally invasive surgical procedures can also be done on an outpatient basis with complete recovery in a few weeks.