We all appreciate the costs and demands that children place upon us - but I doubt that many people have considered the effect that they can have on health. Recent consumer research, commissioned by the British Chiropractic Association, found that 80%* of people in Wales have suffered from back or neck pain at some stage, and 77%* of these are parents. More than half of parents (60%*) say that their back or neck pain has prevented them from carrying or lifting their child at some stage. According to these new statistics, parents are not just limited in lifting and carrying their children. 34%* of parents said their back or neck pain has prevented them from carrying their child’s car seat or carry basket and 38%* say that back or neck pain has prevented them from playing with their child.
*commissioned by the BCA, March 2013
Nothing can take away the burden that having kids can, literally, place upon us! However, there are a few simple hints and tips that can help to ease the strain, and help you maintain a healthy back:
Carrying your baby or toddler
- Carrying your baby as close as possible to your centre of gravity is advisable – across your back or front is best. A carrier/sling or papoose is a good option.
- Select a carrier that ‘criss-crosses’ at the back, so baby’s weight is distributed more evenly. Make sure you read the instructions that come with the product to ensure that you are using it correctly.
- As your baby grows, lifting and carrying gets more difficult. Encouraging toddlers to do as much as possible for themselves, as appropriate, such as getting into the car seat, will save your back a lot of stress
- A pushchair or pram with adjustable height settings is ideal, as it can be moved to suit your own height and that of anyone else who will be pushing it.
- You should be able to walk upright with a straight spine and your hands resting at a comfortable height, which will help you maintain a good posture.
Playing with your child
- Get down to your child’s level, rather than bending over.
- Avoid spending too long kneeling down as this can put pressure on the knees. If you are kneeling, keep your back straight.
- In any position, it is easy to get absorbed in what you and your child are doing. Try to remember to change position regularly.
- Don’t bend to pick up toys, bend your knees. Watch your child and observe the natural squatting posture they use to pick things up.
Changing and Dressing
- Avoid leaning over for long periods at an awkward angle. Use a changing table that can be adapted to your height.
- If you change your baby on a bed it is better to kneel on the floor, keeping the back straight, rather than leaning over at the waist.
- Changing on the floor? Kneel or squat, rather than bending.
- Bring everything you need downstairs at the start of the day, rather than having to carry the baby upstairs every time it needs changing.
It's easy it is to put a strain on your back when looking after young children, constantly carrying them from A to B, bending down to pick up their toys, leaning over to change nappies and generally attending to them. For this reason, it is important to ensure that you are not damaging your back in the process, and this advice is valuable in showing that you can look after your health at the same time as looking after your children. After all, raising children is hard-work enough without having to deal with a sore back or neck!
For more hints and tips, take a look at these advice sheets:
Parents and Posture - Pregnancy
Parents and Posture - Home and Dry
Parents and Posture - Out and About