Protect Your Back: Vol. 2 – Lifting Baby

So excited to be writing my second post in the ‘protect your back after baby’ series! This will focus on common mistakes we all make when picking up the baby. Here are some of the errors easily done without thinking. Repetitive strain like this will eventually destroy your back.

Be sure to read to the end for the exercises of the week!

Mistake #1: Bending over at the waist to pick up baby off the floor.

I’m not sure how many times I hear myself repeating in my head “bend your knees!” It is all too easy to simply bend over to pick up your little one instead of squatting down properly to protect your back. When they are little and weigh less than 10 pounds it may not seem like it’s a problem but repetitive strain + increased weight of child = sore back for Mom and setbacks for your weight loss and health goals!

improper bending to pick up baby back pain proper squat to pick up baby

 

How to fix this: SQUAT, SQUAT, SQUAT!

Some key aspects of a good squat include

  • Upright torso
  • Knees over toes (without passing them)
  • Feet at least shoulder width apart
  • Weight on heels
  • Hips below parallel (at the bottom of the squat)
  • Core tight!

There are a few different ways to squat. I personally really like doing a plié squat, but this depends on your own flexibility and strength. For a plié (or sumo) squat I keep my legs slightly wider than my hips with my feet turned out  to get down low to the ground. With this technique I can easily scoop the baby off the ground and stand up using the strength of my legs as opposed to my back. Some things to remember: Engage your core before picking up your baby! Pulling your bellybutton to your spine, keeping a neutral back, and engaging that transverse abdominis will help support your lower back as you lift. See my previous posts for info on engaging your core! This also applies to putting your baby down on the ground, just in reverse!

plie squat sumo squat to pick up baby

Mistake #2: Holding the baby too far from your body

Lifting the baby out of the crib is ergonomically never an easy task. The crib is usually an awkward height for parents but necessary to keep the baby safe! It is common for parents to want to lift the baby with just their arms and end up holding them far from their body putting strain on the lower back. Remember the basic principles of proper lifting, Hold load close, use large muscle groups, create balance by holding load at midline. P.S. this is a terrible picture because I couldn’t figure out how to demonstrate improper form, so it just looks like some awkward ballet move.

improper way to pick baby up out of crib

How to fix this: Stand as close to the crib as possible & keep your core strong. 

I like to think of this as a version of a straight legged deadlift, where the focus is hinging at the waist as opposed to bending over. If you are not sure what that is check it out here! Since you can’t squat down or bend over the crib in a good position the best solution is to slow down, remember to engage your core, stand as close to the crib as possible and keep soft knees so you can slightly extend your legs as your lift the baby up. If you can stand your baby up and move them close to you before lifting that is even better! Also, as I mentioned in my previous post, NO TWISTING & LIFTING at the same time.

Mistake #3: Carrying the baby on your hip

Sure, this is fine for short periods of time…much less tiring than carrying them in your arms! But as with any other movements prolonged use of this will cause repetitive strain on your joints, back, and eventually muscular imbalances and back or hip pain.

carrying baby on hip back pain

How to fix this: Use a baby carrier whenever possible!

Sometimes babies just like to be carried around! Mine definitely does. I personally LOVE my Tula baby carrier. Similar to other soft structured carriers it distributes the weight across your hips and shoulders so you can carry your child longer and more comfortably. This is a must for shopping trips, while cooking dinner, and anytime you need your hands free! It’s also great for bonding and seems to calm the baby and put them to sleep, and can be used up to toddler age!

tula ergonomic baby carrier
Image source: Tula website, click on picture for link

Definitely try a variety of carriers on and see what feels most comfortable for you and your body. It is also important to consult the manufacturer for directions on how to get a proper fit. See below on some tips to get a proper fit with the Tula. Although a ring sling and other wrap type carriers can be great I feel that they are easily worn improperly causing increased back and shoulder strain.

Mistake #4: Holding the baby while trying to get up off the ground.

I’m not really sure why but it seems that everyone (including myself) tries to do this and eventually ends up with a hurt knee, back, or throwing themselves so off balance that they nearly drop the baby. So simply put, don’t try to get up off the ground in some awkward Russian get-up type maneuver (if you have ever Crossfitted you will know what I am talking about). Instead, slow down, put the baby on the ground, get on your feet, squat down and pick them up in a safe and functional position! Much safer for Mom and baby!

Daily Exercises

In order to make this easier be sure to be doing squats as part of your daily workout routine! Even 10 squats a day can really help build your strength, especially after baby! Add in a few hip and back stretches and you are golden. Try these new techniques and let me know what you think by commenting below, also don’t hesitate to send me an email if you have any other questions.

In fitness and good health,

Natasha

Click exercises below to view and see directions from http://workoutlabs.com

Bodyweight_Squat1Pile_Sumo_Dumbbell_SquatKnee-to-chest_Lower_Back_Stretch

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Core Exercise of the Day

This has been a crazy week! The baby has been super fussy, doesn’t want to eat, but wants to be held all day, so I have been a little overwhelmed with that and haven’t had much time to get on the computer! I have a few great articles in my draft folder right now, so I promise I will get those finished at some point! In the meantime I decided that I am going to start posting a few exercises each week that are appropriate for women postpartum or just those that need to increase their overall strength to prevent injuries! This week’s theme is…you guessed it, CORE strength!

DEAD BUG
1) Lying flat on the ground find your neutral spine position by pulling your bellybutton to your spine while maintaining a slight ‘pocket’ under your lower back. If this is difficult or causes lower back pain during this exercise find your ‘imprint’ position (flatten your lower back against the ground while keeping your core tight for more stability).
2) Extend one leg out so it hovers over the ground, extend the opposite arm out above your head, holding the non working leg and arm in the starting position.
3) Switch legs and arms.
4) Repeat 5 reps on each side, rest, repeat 3 times.
dead bug ab exercise

Image from Workoutlabs.com

BIRD DOG
1) Position yourself in a quadruped position (legs at 90 degrees to hips, arms directly under shoulders)
2) Find your neutral spine position, pull your bellybutton into your spine, don’t let your belly ‘droop’ as you do this exercise.
3) Extend one leg behind you, try to make one straight line from shoulder to toe. (This is a great one to do in the mirror!) Extend the opposite arm to continue this line.
4) Hold this for 3 breaths, switch sides. Repeat 5 reps, rest, repeat 3 times.

bird dog ab exercise

Image from Workoutlabs.com

Give those a try! Feel free to comment and let me know how it feels or if you have any questions. These are both GREAT core rehab exercises and will help improve your posture, stability, core strength, breathing, and enable you to move on to more complex abdominal exercises.

In fitness and good health,
Natasha

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Pregnancy Core Strength Exercises

As promised here are some core exercises that I started while I was pregnant and am still continuing today!

Transverse Abdominis (TA) Activation

  • Sitting against the wall, best to sit on a ball for beginners
  • Take a deep breath and while slowly exhaling pull your belly button to your spine keeping everything tight. Hold for 3 seconds and relax.
  • Repeat this 5-10 times increasing the amount of time spent in a static hold.
  • VISUALIZATION TIP – I think of a string attached from the inside of my bellybutton to the wall, I imagine this string shortening, pulling on my bellybutton and getting my stomach as flat as possible WITHOUT moving my ribs. This will ensure that you are working the right muscles!
  • Maintain good posture, shoulders back, head up.
  • FOR MORE OF A CHALLENGE – do this without a ball under you, in a sitting position supported by your legs.

Core strength wall sit

Kegels

  • Start by doing these in sitting, then try lying on the ground, side lying, or standing as I find the different positions activate different areas.
  • Feel as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine, pulling that pelvic floor up as high as possible, hold for 10 seconds then relax.
  • It is just as important to be able to completely relax these muscles (feeling almost as if you are going to go to the bathroom) as it is to tense them. Muscles only function properly if there is a good balance between tension and relaxation, therefore muscles that are too tight don’t work very well!
  • VISUALIZATION TIP – Think of a string going through the midline of your body out the top of your head. As this string shortens it pulls up on your pelvic floor. Try to activate this area without using any other muscles like your buttock or thighs!

kegel exercises

These exercises and daily walking and squats are the key to an easy and successful labor and delivery! Make time for exercise now before baby and you will reap the benefits later.

 

After Pregnancy… Exercises to rebuild that core and heal your diastasis!

 

TA Activation, Lying Down
  • Lying on the ground have your legs bent at a 90 degree angle
  • Take a deep breathe, as you exhale pull your stomach flat into the ground. Feel like your bellybutton is sinking.
  • I like to keep my hands on my stomach to make sure im working the right muscles, you should feel yourself ‘get skinnier’ without sticking your ribs out, or arching your back.
  • Back and shoulders should be flat on the ground with a slight neutral curve in your lumbar spine.

This is your starting position for the following exercises.

core strength activation

 

Heel Slides
  • From your starting position rest both heels on the ground. Slowly slide one heel out being careful not to not move anything other than your leg.
  • Do 5 on each side, rest, repeat 3 times.

core strength exercises

Leg lifts – Knees bent

  • From your starting position, take a deep breath, then as you exhale lower one leg down to the ground, touch your foot to the ground without resting and return to starting position. Try to not let your abdominals relax or arch your back.
  • If you cannot maintain a strong core position while doing this, start with going halfway to the ground.
  • Alternate legs, do 10 repetitions, rest, repeat 3 sets.

core strength exercises

Only when the above feels too easy, move on to the next exercise

Leg Lifts – Legs straight

  • From starting position straighten you legs. Keep your core tight and don’t let your back arch while doing this.
  • Take a deep breath in, as you exhale  lower one leg to the ground, bring back to starting position, repeat on other side.
  • Alternate legs, 10 repetitions,rest, complete 3 sets.

core strength exercises leg lifts

Hope you get the chance to try some of these ! The great thing is that they can be done in your bedroom with no equipment so they are easy to sneak in during nap time!

On another note, it’s really challenging to find pictures to demonstrate these exercises without infringing on some copyrights so I just took these myself after the gym really quick while the baby was still sleeping in her carseat!! So no judgement please! I am still getting my own body back and I have a long way to go,  but I am definitely feeling pretty great about where I am with my core strength right now. I was hoping to make a video but quite honestly between the baby crying and the dog barking I think it would take about 100 takes.

Take home points – key things to remember to do these correctly…

  • Never lift your head off the ground, keep a neutral neck, chin slightly tucked
  • Keep your core tight, as soon as your hips, lower back or anything else lifts off the ground or shifts in the wrong direction you are no longer working the right muscles.
  • BREATHE, it is important to breathe through these exercises as holding your breath doesn’t help much, and as much as that’s common sense its surprisingly hard to do sometimes!

See this picture for the WRONG way to do these exercises. By lifting your head up off the ground you are putting a lot of outward stress on your abdominals which can actually make your tummy look worse!

bad core exercises after baby

If you have any questions about any of these exercises please comment below or send me an email at natasha@fitmamasb.com and I will be happy to help!

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