Its really easy to let bad postural habits creep in when you have been pregnant, then carrying and feeding a baby, falling asleep in odd positions, lifting a car seat (surely the worst piece of equipment for Mums backs!) and then that baby gets bigger and heavier and more demanding! No wonder lots of Mums have weak core muscles and shoulders, aching hips and back and neck pains! YOGA , of course, is a big help, especially if you tune in regularly to your posture and breath , doing a few shoulder loosening exercises, cat pose with arching and leg/ arm stretches, and resting in childs pose, any of those can take 5 mins and be done when you have a few moments peace!
In baby yoga classes we practice lifts and carrying positions that can help counter bad habits, such as lifting babies up with the ‘spiral lift’ or coming up onto one knee before standing. ‘Tiger in the tree‘ is a lovely way to hold your baby while leaving your shoulders and arms comfortably free, as the baby rests on your middle. Mums have reported back to me that this is great because they can free up one hand to do other things! It isnt designed for this but this is way preferable to the ‘one hip slip’ that many of us seem to adopt, where we balance the baby facing inwards on our hip and tilt our whole pelvis towards that hip! Terrible for rebuilding your core stability, terrible for hip and lower back pain, not great for shoulders as they have to hunch to keep baby in position…. need i say more! If you recognise this habit.. stop now!!
One really simple way to counter this that works well with babies who have gained head support, and for younger babies too if you are careful to keep their head tilted forwards so their chin rests downwards, is to turn the baby facing OUTwards on your hip instead of inwards. It may seem counterintuitive as we want to hug our babies towards us but the more relaxed your hold on them, the better it is for your posture, allowing you to breathe better, not allowing tension to build up, and all this communicated to the baby means a more settled baby.
In many other cultures where they do not have the ‘equipment’ that we have for our babies and women often go about their daily work with their babies in close contact; the way they hold their babies appears much looser and more relaxed. This also encourages babies to ‘hold on‘ to their Mums as soon as they are able, which helps when the odd stumble happens as it inevitably does. (Interesting though how Mums will naturally protect their baby and very rarely drop them- instinct kicks in much quicker than learned habits.)
Check out the following link to a gorgeous video of a Dad dancing with his 2 year old daughter, it shows perfectly the kind of relaxed holding i’m talking about, and you can see that she has been taught to ‘hold on’ rather than ‘be held’ and that Dad and Daughter have perfect trust in each other’s bodies. Beautiful:
For older babies , and toddlers ,the ‘bundle hold’ works really well to allow shoulders to open and relax, using the natural curve of the waist to rest the baby face down ‘under your arm’. It may look odd at first but it is fab for when you are in a hurry and need to have a little run somewhere, for the bus, out of the rain or you just fancy running with your baby!!
Slings that let the baby ‘hang’ and have straps across your mid back are not very good for your posture, as they put too much pressure in one concentrated area. Fabric slings spread the baby’s weight across your front and back and allow for adjustment as baby grows- you can still use them with a toddler. Getting expert advice from someone who has used one before / a professional is a good idea if youre new to them, especially with a new baby as it can be confusing to learn to tie them and ensure baby is well supported- its one of those things that once you ‘get it’ theres no going back!
If your aches and pains are harder to shift i would recommend getting some treatment as well as these practices. Specialist massage therapists, chiropractors, etc should be able to give you an insight into what is going on with your posture and give you some pointers to correct it as well as treating the symptoms. If you’re in Manchester/ Cheshire i highly recommend Sally, Scott, Glo Chiropractor, who specialises in pre and postnatal issues. (www.glochiropractor.co.uk)
Finally, please dont despair! I have seen lots of Mums who have got so used to their aches and pains that they see them as inevitable. With a bit of positive thinking and investing some time and effort to correct bad habits and establish good new ones, you can free yourself from feeling trapped in this cycle! Remember to breathe fully and deeply whenever possible- your breathing can form a bridge to stretching and strengthening poses allowing you to access inner strength and release deeply held tension…..ahhhhhhhhh! Feels good just thinking about it! Im off to do some now after hunching over my laptop!