Watch your back
Key times in being a parent when you need to protect your lower back.
Oh, my back! (
If there’s one ailment that can propel new mothers into an unstoppable exchange of symptoms at the baby clinic, it’s when one of them mentions the draining ache of lower-back pain. Here are some times to be extra careful.

Your body is flooded with Relaxin (the hormone that softens your ligaments in preparation for birth). Your centre of gravity is increasingly pulled forward as your tummy expands.

The solution: Keep weight gain at a reasonable level if you can, and keep exercising your stomach muscles even when it seems a lost cause.

“Most mums breastfeed by sitting hunched over with their head down, with the weight of a baby on one side of their body,” says Johannesburg-based physiotherapist, Tammi Newman,. “This puts significant strain on the neck and back and considering the hours spent in this position in the early months, is one of the first things moms should be conscious of.”

The solution: Lie down with your baby or use a specialised cushion that takes the slouch away. Yes, we know when you’ve been up four times in the night and when, at 5am, your baby wails again it’s hard to put the needs of your back first but it will be worth it.

Rocking the baby
The very motion that most frequently calms a fretful baby – rocking – is bad news for your back. “It’s just too jarring on your dics,” Newman says. Even a rocking chair has a low-level impact on this part of your back which is where most people manifest the kind of real problems that require surgery.

The solution: Teaching your baby to fall asleep on her own will save you a lot of agony in the future. The bending and twisting movement with a weight in your arms is an outright no-no for healthy backs.
Look for a cot that allows you to position your baby at waist height in its early months and can then be moved down for safety. Remember too, when you are shelling out for that fancy pram or stroller, that it must have adjustable handles that allow your arms to be slightly bent and not fully extended.

Pick me up, Mommy!
Until the age of around five, kids sometimes just need to be picked up and cuddled but moms with back issues should avoid this if at all possible. It’s not just mothers who suffer: Dads too can easily find themselves with a nagging pain as they repeatedly stoop down to pick up a toddler.

The solution: Newman suggests sitting down when dispensing kisses after your four-year-old has taken a tumble. Spend extended family time on the bed or on the lounge floor.

This is far harder for parents whose children have disabilities and need to be carried around. This is where the power of Pilates comes into play. “Developing your core is essential for anyone who knows they are going to be unavoidably lifting a heavy child – and even for those who simply want to take precautionary measures,” Newman says.

The role of exercise
Like a growing number of physiotherapists, Newman gives Pilates classes where she can ensure your back is protected whilst developing this all-important core. Known as clinical Pilates, these classes can go a long way to dealing with back pain.
In the end, back health comes from awareness which in turn leads to the proactive measures like those described above.

How has your back coped with the various challenges of parenthood?

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