Parent’s Guide to Safe Use of Baby Gear
The physical demands of caring for a child can take a toll on your knees, shoulders, neck, and back. Here are a few simple tips to prevent or minimize pain and injury.
Make sure your stroller fits you
Look for a stroller that fits your height and promotes a comfortable stride. Parents commonly push a stroller by hunching over it, locking their elbows, and bending their wrists backward when holding the handlebars. Instead, try these tips:
- Keep your head and chin up, and your ears above your shoulders
- Keep your shoulders down and back, leading with your chest and staying as close to the stroller as possible
- Keep your arms slightly bent; don't lock them
- Keep your wrists straight when you are holding the handlebars
- Engage your whole body, not just your arms, through all movements
All strollers should roll easily over terrain, but city dwellers, in particular, should look for a stroller that can easily navigate curbs. Moms and dads who run with a stroller should be careful to maintain good posture while running — don't stand upright; instead, lean forward, toward the stroller, while bending forward at the hips (not the back). Try to run close enough to the stroller that you needn’t reach forward and bend your back or crane your neck forward.
Properly handle car seat carriers
As you would do when lifting any heavy object, stand in front of the car seat, with the seat centered to your body. Bend at your hips and not your back, and bring the seat in close to your body. Before you stand, push your feet into the floor, exhale, and contract your pelvic floor muscles (as if trying to stop 1 or 2 drops of urine). Then, pivot with your feet (don't twist your back) and stand. This ensures that your legs and hips, not your back, are doing most of the work.
When it's time to take your infant out of the car seat carrier, place it on a surface that is at your waist height to avoid squatting down to the floor (which can cause stress and strain). The best way to carry a car seat is to place 1 arm on each side of the carrier and hold it at the center of your body, like a laundry basket. Alternatively, you can place both hands on the handle, bend your elbows, and carry the car seat in front of you. It's important to remember that the less distance there is between your torso and the car seat carrier, the better for your back. Using both hands also helps distribute the weight evenly.
Carrying baby near the body is a parent's BFF
Parents spend most of the day holding, rocking, and carrying their infants. Lifting and carrying a baby introduces new challenges to moving properly, since your strength and ability to complete tasks diminishes as the day goes on. Using a front carrier is a great way to foster better posture and body mechanics, while providing greater freedom of movement.
For more tips on baby gear safety, check out the video Proper Lifting for New Moms.
Acknowledgement: Marianne Ryan, PT, OCS