In the past year since Gunnar was born I’ve experienced first hand how posture changes with parenthood.  Previously I’d seen other parents holding and feeding their babies.  I’ve educated moms and dads about their posture and body mechanics in response to pain or injury.  But not until I was the one standing with my back arched or hunched over while breastfeeding did I realize – this is REALLY HARD!!  But I also realized that we have a choice: we can choose to experience less pain and stiffness or we can take the “easy way out” and pay for it later.  Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way….
Standing – Boy is it easy to hold the baby in front of me and lean back, increasing the arch in my lower back, jutting my hips forward and letting him lean on me.  It takes a little more mindfulness to stand as if I were in Mountain Pose – keep my pelvis centered over my feet and my shoulders over my hips.  It takes a little more arm strength.  In fact, I wish I had done a few more biceps curls before he was born but no sense dwelling on the past.  But I’ll say – my back and neck both feel so much better in Mountain Pose than in Sway Back My Arms Are Tired Pose.
Feeding – I’ve noticed bad posture while breast or bottle feeding so this applies to all parents feeding their babies.  Your little one is cute.  And maybe thrashing around.  Or maybe hasn’t quite figured out where he wants to put his mouth so you look down at him.  And round the upper back, slouch in your seat, and just your head forward. It only takes a few more seconds (not easy if the kid is screaming but totally worth it later) to place a pillow behind the back, sit up tall, stack a few pillows on the lap and you no longer need to hunch over to see baby.  Of course he’s still cute so after a few moments of looking down, look up, pull your chin back and lengthen the back of your neck.  Maybe even rest your head on the back of the chair/headboard.  Close your eyes.  Take a nap….
Lifting – This is one skill that I’ve spent the past 15 years teaching people how to do correctly.  And then I went and had a baby and started leaning over and picking him up.  About 500 times a day.  And guess what – it hurts!  Bend at the knees, hinge at the hips, squat lower if needed, pull the baby in close and then stand up using your legs. How hard can this be?  It actually isn’t that hard but for some reason it seems elusive.  But the wrong way leads to strain and can easily injure the disks in your lower back so again taking about 2 more seconds to line up right, pretend I’m doing Chair Pose and lifting correctly is going to save all of us a lot of grief down the line.  Because I actually don’t want to find out how hard it is to say, “I’m sorry.  I can’t pick you up because my back is hurt.”
Playing – Like most Americans I have tight hamstrings and tight hips so when I sit on the floor my lower back rounds.  Unless I sit on a bolster like I do in yoga class and for meditation.  It’s one more thing to have lying around but my back is a lot happier when I sit on my cushion as I play with Gunnar than if I just sit on the floor.  My husband’s hips are even tighter.  He sits on a little stool.  Another trick for playing is to come onto hands and knees over the baby into table top position.  This keeps your spine neutral.  You can also do some cat/cow while you’re there which is healthy for you and in some cases – like mine – your baby might think it’s the funniest thing it the whole world.
Here’s a short yoga sequence to help improve posture and technique:

  • Mountain Pose
  • Chair Pose
  • Cat/Cow
  • Locust Pose with arms at sides

~Alison Aiken, PT

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