There is plenty of attention given to pain during pregnancy. However, once the baby arrives, all of the focus goes to meeting all their needs, often ignoring how much of a toll that takes on parents. From carrying around an uncooperative bundle of joy, to adapting to new sleeping postures, early parenthood can cause its own aches and pains. It is easy to ignore your own body’s complaints to put all your energy into the baby, but you need to take care of yourself before you can properly take care of another. Here are some of the causes for new mom pain, and some ideas of what you can do to take care of yourself first.
Causes of New Mom Pain
There are three areas that are the primary causes of back and neck pain in new parents:
Kids need to be carried when they are little. Before they can walk, it’s the only way you can get them around. But even after they start moving, you still cannot avoid constantly bending over to scoop them up. Whether to keep them from running into the street or to keep them headed in the right direction, parenting means hauling around an ever growing child, and that means your back will start to hurt.
One of the most common areas to be affected by all that carrying is the upper back. The muscles in between the shoulder blades get overworked and can get painful themselves or they can pull the upper rib joints out of place. When the rib joints get stuck, pain travels to the front of the chest (called costochondritis) or causes shoulder problems.
The Problem with the Baby Bucket
The baby bucket is one of the worst offenders for pain in new moms and dads. In theory, it is a great invention, allowing you to move a sleeping baby from the car to the stroller. In practice, though, it is an ergonomic nightmare. The handle forces you to hold it away from your body multiplying the weight of the carrier. Another common option to hold the carrier is to hook the handle in your elbow. This choice is even worse, as it pulls on the muscles of the upper back and neck, while compressing the nerves in the elbow. Neck pain and possibly tingling or numbness in the arm (similar to sciatica) can result.
My best advice to lessen the strain from all the carrying is to keep the weight as close to your body as possible. Start a lift by bending down with your knees, hold baby close and stand up with your legs. Switch sides frequently so you don’t overload one side. And, use the carrier only to go from car to stroller. If you will be carrying it longer than that take the baby out of the basket.
Sleeping is never the same after children arrive. At best, your sleep is disturbed making sure they keep breathing at night. But, a difficult sleeper can also have you up feeding them every few hours. Awkward sleeping positions are one of the most common reasons for lower back pain and neck pain in new moms.
Pillow positioning is an important consideration for all sleepers, but it is doubly important for parents who might get stuck in one position all night as your small human takes up four times their expected size in bed space. See my article on how to sleep for ideas on how to set your neck up for a comfortable night.
You never imagine the awkward positions you will end up in to feed a baby. Breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you will sometimes do anything to avoid disturbing the baby once they start eating. Leaning forward with hunched shoulders is tough on your entire spine, especially your upper back. It duplicates the worst of computer posture, and causes some of the same problems.
The most important factor in reducing pain while sitting and feeding a baby is to keep your shoulders back and down. With this posture, the spine has a counterbalance to even out the weight distribution front to back in your body. It also takes pressure off your neck, which can lead to headaches. Try using a pillow to help support the baby, rather that cradling her in your forearms when feeding.
Make an Appointment for New Mom (or Dad) Pain
Parenting a child for the first two years is one of the toughest times on your psyche and your body. Dr French, a chiropractor in Norwalk, CT understands the biomechanics of the body and the daily struggle of taking care of kids. If pain is making this time even more of a challenge than it has to be, contact us with questions, or click the button below to make an appointment to start feeling better fast.