Implementing simple safe lifting techniques is a must for long term back health of any parent. Parents are continually faced with the strenuous physical demands of child rearing such as chasing, lifting, feeding and comforting.
The mechanism leading to back pain is believed to be associated with the repetitive nature of lifting children. Consider the fact that parents are lifting a 7-10 pound baby 50 times per day. By the age of 12 months the child may weigh approximately 17 pounds, and at 2 years the child becomes a very active 25 to 30 pound toddler. Add a brother or sister into the mix and you really compound the issue.
What follows are some simple tips that can help parents avoid the aches, sprains, and strains associated with the challenges of family life.
Safe Lifting: The Basics
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart which gives you a stable base of support.
- Keep your back as straight as possible and bend at your knees to reach your child.
- Lift using both arms while keeping your back straight and pushing up with your thigh muscles, which are amongst the largest and strongest muscles in the body.
- When carrying and moving a child, pivot with your feet until you are facing your destination, then lower the child into the crib or onto the floor by bending at the knees and keeping your back straight. Bending and twisting puts the most load on the lower back structures, namely the disc.
- When lowering a child into the crib by bending at the knees, try keeping a straight back to minimise rounding of the lower back as much as possible.
When possible hold your child in an upright position, directly against your chest in the centre. Carrying a child on one hip can create postural imbalances that can lead to low back pain over time. There are also aids to help carry young children like baby slings. As the child gets heavier/older try to avoid carrying them as frequently.
Always sit in a chair with sufficient back support and refrain from leaning forward to reach the child’s mouth, which can strain your upper and lower back. Alternatively, use pillows or blankets to support and position the child. Allowing your pelvis to rotate backgrounds (slouching) puts great strain on the lower back as you hang off the supportive structures like ligaments, tendon and muscle. If the lower back is supported and not allowed to rock backwards, you take the strain off and avoid the aches.
Bathing and changing
When bathing your child try kneeling or sitting on a cushion or soft matt to ensure you avoid standing and leaning over the bath.
When changing nappies try and do this on the floor and sit/kneel down or on a surface that allows you to stand up tall keeping your back straight. Try to avoid surfaces that require you to slouch and lean over.
It is probably impractical to adhere to this advice 100% of the time as when you are caring for children you sometimes need to react quickly, you can be tired or simply forget, however if you practice, these techniques can become second nature, even if you apply these 80% of the time, the times you cannot adopt a sound posture may not be so damaging if not done on such a frequent basis.
If you work with children our ergonomist can advise you on how to avoid back pain when working, including furniture designed for adults working with children.