Whether they are fresh little babes, or 40-pound toddlers, we will spend a great deal of our day holding and carrying our kids. It may be a 2am, 3am, 4am & 6am bouncing session, or during the witching hour and you are trying to get dinner on the table, or the toddler decided that they could no longer walk and you need to get to the car to go pick up the older one from school, at some point during the day (or all day it seems) you have a child attached to your body.
I see you Mama, you are tired, it is 4am and babe has been up every hour. Your eyes are burning, your low back is screaming, and your upper body is basically frozen in this curled up baby snuggling position. This point in your day is about survival. It is what we do in the rest of the day that will help build the muscle memory for those long nights awake, rocking back and forth, swaying to the beat of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
But, every time we get a chance to think about our posture, the better it is for our bodies. As the kids get bigger, they get HEAVY! And over time your body takes a toll from carrying them awkwardly.
Typical Holding Posture – The Back Lean
Your body goes into this posture because it is easy and lazy. When you have the baby in front of you, you will tend to lean back, which keeps the additional weight stacked up over your hips, but your upper body is back behind your hips. This puts incredible pressure on your lower back as it stabilizes your spine and upper body. It also turns off our glutes as they are in a tucked position, and the main reason we get a #mumbum or a flat #pancakebum.
Typical Holding Posture – The Hip Carry
Once babes can hold their head up and are becoming more stable through their core, we start to hold them off to the side a bit more, so we can use our other hand to cook, eat, clean, pay for groceries, carry the groceries, unpack the groceries, basically do everything!
To help bear the load and take the stress off of our arm (ever notice you have one bicep much more defined than the other?), we pop our supporting hip towards the child for them to ‘sit’ on. To keep the load over the center line we jut our ribs off to the side and create this crooked side lean. This can also put a strain on our lower back and takes the spine out of neutral alignment.
Our bodies are pretty incredible, and we can hold these two postures for quite some time, years even. Your body will start to compensate and the muscles that are needed will strengthen. However, the opposing muscles will tend to weaken, and it is harder for the body to hold a neutral spine when needed.
Many Mamas develop low back pain, weak abdominals and their bodies start to shift to one side almost twisted after years of carrying kids on their hips.
It is important that we understand what a neutral posture is so that we can find it as often as possible and keep those weakened muscles active.
Ribs Over Hips
One of the first body cues we want to think about when carrying babies or toddlers, is to think about keeping our ribs overtop of our hips. This will help straighten the spine and help the core muscles work in synergy.
It will feel really awkward and exaggerated at first, but over time it will become easier.