Back Support and Posture for Parents

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Posture for Parents

mother and baby relaxed in the park
Kohei Hara / Getty Images

Parenting is filled with lots of challenges.  And one of them may be something you don't think about until things go wrong.  That of course, is maintaining support for your back and your posture.  

Slide on for (more than) three tips for protecting your spine while raising and managing your kids.

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Back Health Dos and Don't for Diapering

Caucasian mother changing newborn daughter in hospital crib
Shestock / Getty Images

It's easy to lose good posture when you have diapers to change.  You'll likely need to bend over, but just a little,which can be an awkward position for your spine.  Plus, you need to keep a laser focus on baby, diapers and pins, leaving you with little leeway for making adjustments in your stance.  

Given the way-too-many things you probably have to do and think about, good body mechanics is probably not top of mind for you.

But if you can arrange the changing station to be a little lower than elbow height, you'll likely put yourself at a bio-mechanical advantage. At this level, you'll keep the baby - as well as the tools you use - within reach, without causing tense shoulders or a rounded spine.  

Related: 3 Ways Your Discs May be Causing You Pain

When the table is too high, your shoulders will probably go up, resulting in tense and painful  trapezius muscles. This may affect your neck and/or upper back, as well.  When the table is too low, as it is in the picture on this page, you'll probably find yourself rounding your spine to reach.  Rounding over is potentially damaging to your intervertebral discs, and may strain your muscles, as well.

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Top Posture Tips for Tot-Carrying Parents

Mother holding her children
Stephanie Rausser / Getty Images

Getting instructions for good body mechanics that you can apply while lifting, holding or otherwise managing one child is all fine and well.  At least you know what you should do.

But let's face it - being a parent is much more complicated than that.  Most of the time at least two kids are clambering for your attention, and often more. Plus, you're usually juggling several activities at a time, from cooking meals and doing dishes, to cleaning, and getting kids to sleep or off to school - not to mention your stuff - like getting to work on time.

Top Posture Tips for Tot-Carrying Parents

What are the three most important things to think about when you've got several kids to  carry? One has to do with where to spend your precious fitness time; another is about establishing a base of support for yourself. And the third is fairly self-explanatory.

  • As a parent, working out probably gets relegated to the bottom of the to do list more often than not.  When you do get a chance to exercise, be sure to develop your core and hips.  A strong core will protect your back when you lift kids, toys and tools; strong (and flexible) hips will let you maneuver around while you have them in tow.  
     
  • Although it varies based on your position, the body's center of gravity is in the pelvis, just in front of the sacrum bone. When you can balance the weight of all your parts around this point, you'll likely avoid at least some muscle and joint strain.  This holds true during physical challenges such as lifting two kids at once.  In fact, your base of support is their base of support.  

    So lift your kids from your hips and try to remember to stay balanced between forward and back, and between right and left directions, especially around your hips and pelvis.
     
  • Get a carrier that harnesses around your waist and hips to help you manage multiple kids. One child can be in the holster freeing you to hold the other(s).

Related: Exercises that will Give You Good Posture

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Playtime Posture Challenges for Parents

Mother swinging infant in air
Mother swinging infant in air. Cultura/Nancy Honey / Getty Images

Playtime presents a challenge to your posture and your back, too.  Many parents love to get into it with their kids - whether they swing their child in the air or carry them around on their head.  But if you hold the baby out too far your core muscles may lose their leverage for supporting the child's weight.

If you are a playful parent, then, as I mentioned on the previous slide, ab strength is a must. If you like to send your child airborne and then catch her again, lower abs in particular can help you manage your posture and their weight.

And finally, for better support for your child and easier movement for you, try to involve your whole shoulder, from the shoulder blade through to your hands.  

Related: What is Swayback?

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