Directing women how to hold appropriate posture while caring for their new born is very difficult. I don’t like feeling hypocritical, so I must be honest with you – my posture was not great when my babies were spending a good portion of their day in my arms and sleeping on my chest. The tendency for a new mom to thrust her hips forward and to lean back with her upper body, allowing her baby to lie on her chest is hard to deny. We all do it. And as our babies get bigger and gain better head control, we continue to thrust one or both hips forward so our babies have a perch to sit on.
In our multi-tasking world, the reality is that we all hold our babies in whatever position that keeps them comfortable and allows us to perform all of our daily activities. The only time we slow down is when symptoms appear. These could be symptoms of low back or upper back pain, symptoms of incontinence (occasional accidental urine leakage), or symptoms of prolapse (feeling of heaviness or bulging within your vaginal canal). Changing your posture is the first step to resolving and preventing all of these symptoms.
Awareness of finding neutral spine in standing as well as in sitting is so important when you are carrying your little one simply because you are carrying an additional load which increases the pressure on your pelvic floor and your lumbosacral spine. If you thrust your hips forward, you are assuming a posterior pelvic tilt posture which increases your chances of experiencing prolapse, incontinence, and/or low back pain (you can read more about posture in previous “belly pooch” blogs and view clear demonstrations on our Hab-I: Pelvic Floor DVD). Since it is so difficult to hold neutral spine as a new mom, my recommendation for any new mom is to use a sling carrier.
There are a lot of advantages with the sling carrier. First, the little one gets to be close to his/her mom or dad where they want to be; second, there is no tendency to lean back or thrust hips forward because your little one is not up on your chest; third, use of the sling frees your hands to take care of your other children and daily tasks without sacrificing your body. Not to mention the 6-8 weeks following delivery is a delicate time when our bodies are healing and doing their best to return to their previous form. This is the last time that we need to put any added stress on our pelvic floor and the use of the sling to carry your little one limits this stress. My only caution on the sling carrier is to alternate which shoulder you drape the sling over to avoid overuse.
As your little one grows and gains head control, I do like the front baby carriers. It allows your baby to face outwards and interact with his/her environment, it allows you to distribute their weight evenly through both shoulders, and lastly, it also frees your hands as the sling did.
This blog is not to say that sling carriers and front baby carriers are required, but as a physical therapist, they are the best solution I have found for both my symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.
Before I sign off, I would like to provide a quick review of the optimal posture that we should all hold throughout our days, especially as a new mom.
Standing posture review:
1. Weight evenly distributed on both legs.
2. Knees are straight but not locked.
3. Hold neutral spine (rock pelvis to a gymnast posture and then bring it back slightly).
4. Engage lower abs by drawing belly button “up and in.”
5. Open your hands.
Sitting posture review:
1. Feet placed shoulder width apart.
2. Rock forward on pelvis so you are sitting on your tripod of 2 sit bones and your pubic bone (if you feel pressure on your buns or tail bone, you are not on your tripod).
3. Draw your belly button in and engage lower abdominals.
4. Open up your hands toward the ceiling.