Protecting Yourself from Injury
Women all over the world wear their babies for long stretches time. Their neck, back, and leg muscles strengthen gradually to accommodate the additional weight. But it is important to remember that wearing your baby comfortably may take time. Doing too much too soon can cause pain and injury and sabotage your best intentions.
"Your muscles need to be respected," says Dr. Henry Goitz, MD, chief of sports medicine at the Medical College of Ohio. "You can't expect to run a marathon after little or no exercise for nine months. So how do you expect yourself to carry eight, nine or ten pounds around all day?"
Many postpartum women experience hormone fluxuations that loosen their ligaments. In addition for those new mothers who had minimal exercise during pregnancy, muscle weakness and atrophy can be an issue.
Dr. Goitz recommends initially wearing baby for 10 to 15 minute increments, with an hour-long break in between. If you feel fine the next day, gradually increase the time by another 10 or 15minutes. Pain in the neck, shoulders or back, means you are overdoing it. Cut back a bit and consider adopting a simple stretching and strengthening routine. This does not require hours at the gym. Doing stomach crunches or sit-ups for 10 minutes a day, or attending a weekly Pilates class strengthens your abdominal muscles. A strong midsection is crucial to protecting your back from injury.
Stretching is vitally important, too. Again, a little can go a long way. Gentle neck and shoulder rolls and side-to-side bending increase circulation and oxygenate your muscles. Before and after wearing a carrier, take a minute to touch your toes, loosening your back and hamstring muscles.
Finally, be vigilant about your posture both in and out of the carrier. Walk with your head up, shoulders relaxed and held slightly back. Contracting your abdominal muscles will automatically relieve pressure on your lower back and cause you to stand up straighter. Try not to hunch or bend over for long periods of time and always bend your knees when picking up or reaching for things.