Congratulations on your new full-time position as a parent! It’s definitely a physical job, and can take a toll on your body without the right preparation. Learning how to improve body awareness will help you tackle your new parenting duties head-on and physically fierce.
Posture Awareness, Stretching, and Self Correction – A Daily Ritual
In the early months following the birth of your new baby, between diaper changes, feedings, baby wearing, carrying, cuddling, rocking, stroller pushing and burping, you may find that your body starts to collapse into a perpetually hunched position.
Understanding the anatomy of good posture can help you self correct throughout the day, even while completely engrossed in the care of a tiny human. This doesn’t require as much dedication as one might assume as long as you know what areas of the body to focus on.
We’ve distilled it down to these 5 major zones to keep it simple:
Neck, Scapulae, Abdominals, Pelvis, Gluteals
Neck – The neck is a vulnerable area due to the amount of tension and protraction that occurs when lifting, holding and carrying your baby. You may find that you’re using a lot of new muscles to care for your baby, causing tension and fatigue in the muscles of the neck and upper back. Performing routine range of motion (ROM) throughout the day can prevent stiffness and help reset your posture. Remember these four simple movements below.
- Rotation – (The exaggerated ‘No’ motion) Start with simply turning your head as far as you can left to right.
- Flexion & Extension – (The exaggerated ‘Yes’ motion) Extend the neck to look all the way up, and then flex the neck by bringing the chin to the chest.
- Lateral flexion – Facing forward and tilting your head as if you’re trying to bring your ear down to your shoulder on each side.
- Retraction – (The ‘double chin’ motion) Start in neutral and gently bring your chin inward – it looks unflattering but it’s great for returning your head to neutral position and applying a light stretch to the back of your neck.
Scapulae – The scapulae (shoulder blades) are the precursor to shoulder and arm movement. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down for a count of 10 seconds and slowly release to feel the impact of this simple exercise on your upper back, shoulders, neck and chest.
Engaging your scapulae automatically pulls your shoulders back and broadens your collarbones to open your chest. Practice this quick exercise to reset your posture several times a day in sitting or standing.
Pelvis – Develop awareness of your pelvic position with a simple cat-cow stretch. Starting on your hands and knees, tuck the tailbone under and round the spine upward into a flexed ‘cat’ position. Release, then bring the pelvis through neutral position. Begin to tilt the pelvis forward with spine arched in extension to create a sway-back ‘cow’ position. Gently repeat a few times to feel how tilting the pelvis in each direction impacts the curves of your spine.
Maintaining a neutral pelvis stabilizes your spine in seated and standing positions, helping to prevent fatigue and back pain when holding the baby for long stretches of time. For the postnatal parent, your focus will be not only on pelvic tilt, but also on pelvic floor exercises (more on this here).
Abdominals – Engaging the abs may not come naturally to you at first, but once you’ve developed a feel for it your spine will reap the benefits of a stronger core. To start, take a deep inhalation. Upon exhalation, draw the belly button in and back and hold for a count of 10 seconds. Try this in sitting or standing position.
Gluteal – ‘Glute sets’ involve the simple act of squeezing your cheeks. Hold for a count of 5 seconds and release, repeating 10 times. You can do this seated or standing anytime, anywhere to strengthen these important postural muscles. Engaging the gluteal muscles in standing helps position your pelvis in neutral and awakens muscles of the lower abdomen and legs.
Practice these movements, and they’ll slowly start to become second nature – like so many other aspects of parenting. Do them in the shower, or while zoning out in front of the TV during a 3 a.m. feeding. Honestly it doesn’t matter when or where, just remember to check in with your body when you can during this incredibly sweet, yet exhausting time.
For more support and information on ergonomic techniques, product guides and setup, contact us at Workup Ergonomics.