I felt like writing about lifting babies and toddlers off the floor, because so many moms and dads do it wrong and thereby do their backs a big disservice and potentially create a future chronic pain point in their spine or even herniated discs. While many might read this and think: ‘come on, lifting a baby is a no-brainer’. You’d be surprised, because it isn’t.
As parents, it is important to have each other’s backs, but we should have our own backs too – literally. We are all only given this one body and there is no replacement when you have wrecked the original. So we should love ourselves enough and treat ourselves kindly, as kindly, caring and loving as we treat our children.
While most people learned at some point in their lives that it’s important to lift heavy or larger objects by bending your knees and NOT your back, all of this seems to be forgotten when we move to this new cool place: the parent-hood.
So often when I see parents at playgrounds lift their children off the floor, I see them bend their upper spines and must always cringe a little. Not because I am Super Mom and know it all, quite the contrary, but because I have been there. I too had this inexplicable pain and stiffness between my shoulder blades that never seemed to fully go away, no matter how much stretching I did and how much I trained that part of my body. And then it hit me, when I was once again leaning down to scoop the little one off the ground. The pain in my spine was a desperate attempt to call for help! In a worst case scenario (besides tearing or straining your back muscles or irritating your joints),the wrong baby lifting technique can even lead to shifting your vertebrae out of alignment. While this might be rare, back pain certainly is not. Not for parents, neither for society as a whole as we all tend to constantly pick up stuff from the floor without doing it safely.
While this movement of bending your spine in and of itself would not be a big deal if you do it as a mere part of your stretching routine, it becomes a real problem when you add a serious bit of weight to the equation that you aim to lift up. Yet, we never equate a baby with serious weight. They are a wiggling weight though which thus intensifies the pressure on your upper spine. Think about it! Would you randomly lean down and pick up a 17-22 lbs/8-10 kg dumbbell or a bag of cement? Even once? Or 25 times a day? Probably not. No. Certainly not. You would stop and think, ‘wait, this is a serious weight’. Therefore, you want to keep your back straight and your feet shoulder-width apart, then bend your knees and lower yourself into a squatting position and lift by stretching your knees and engaging your leg muscles.
The key to lifting anything off the ground is to keep it as close to your body’s center of gravity as possible. The same needs to be your goal every time you lift your baby! Thereby, you take pressure off the back and your delicate spine and shift it to where it belongs: your powerful leg and buttocks muscles. The positive side effect of this: you thus secretly train your leg, buttocks, lower back and pelvic muscles as you will probably easily do 25 to 30 squats with weight (your baby or toddler) a day. For that, you don’t even have to set foot in a gym 😉 On top of this, your “training” will gradually intensify as your baby grows heavier. A win-win situation for your body.
So keep this in mind time when your little one flings his/her arms around your legs and wants to be picked up, especially as the right lifting technique comes with one big perk: you and your baby can hug on the way up.
How to lift your baby
If you still end up with random neck and shoulder pain, there is a simple and effective 5 minute excercise to release neck and shoulder tension.