Back pain is common during pregnancy. Usually, the pain diminishes within a few weeks after delivery. But back pain may return as you begin lifting and carrying your infant on a daily basis. As your baby grows, the weight load increases and back pain can result.
Caring for an infant puts stress on your back. Lifting your baby can be especially hard on your spine. 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.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to prevent back problems, such as modifying your activities and exercising to strengthen your spine.
Preventing Back Pain
Here are ways that new mothers can help reduce their risk of injury and back pain. Many of these tips also work well with new fathers!
- Speak with your obstetrician about when you can start exercising again and what kinds of exercises are safe for you to do. Discuss what goals would be realistic in terms of returning to your pre-pregnancy weight and activity level. This will vary greatly depending on how easy or difficult your pregnancy and/or delivery were. If you had a Caesarian-section (C-section) delivery, it may take longer before you can begin exercising.
- When you are “cleared” for exercise, begin trying to restore your hip and back flexibility with stretching exercises or light yoga. Your baby’s nap time is often a good opportunity for exercise. Because the risk of back pain is high among young, overweight women, getting back to exercise is especially important after pregnancy.
- If you are able to find a babysitter, participating in a group exercise class can be more interesting than exercising alone and can help ensure that your workout is safe and balanced. Core muscles weaken during pregnancy and after a C-section delivery; taking a yoga or pilates class can help strengthen these muscles and may help prevent or reduce back pain.
Lifting Your Baby
- To pick up a child from the floor, bend at your knees — not at your waist. Squat down, tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your legs.
- Do not stretch your arms out to pick up your baby. Bring your baby close to your chest before lifting. Avoid twisting your body while holding your baby.
Feeding Your Baby
- To avoid upper back pain caused by breastfeeding, do not bend over your baby to breastfeed. Bring your baby to your breast. A pillow or two placed on your lap will help bring your baby up to you.
- While you are nursing, sit in an upright chair rather than a soft couch.
- Remove the high chair tray when you are trying to put the baby in or take the baby out of the high chair.
Carrying and Traveling With Your Baby
- Consider using a “front pack” to carry your baby when you are walking.
- Do not carry your child on your hip. This overloads the back muscles.
- Do not stand outside the car and try to place your child in the car seat. Kneel on the back seat as you place your baby into the car seat. Because the safest place for a child’s car seat is in the middle of the backseat, you can sit next to the car seat while you place the child into the seat.
- Infant car seats are heavy, and they get heavier as your infant grows. Rather than carrying your infant in the car seat, consider fastening the seat into place in the car first, then bring your baby outside separately and strap him or her into the seat.