Back Care & How Ergonomic Slings Can Help:
A common complaint that parents come to us with is having a bad back and worrying how slings will affect them. Sometimes parents will have experience using a narrow based carrier and found it really hard on their back or had a friend use one and tell them it was hard on their back. Ergonomic Slings are much better for your back as they distribute the weight evenly and are well supported.
Carrying your baby in your arms can be hard on your back as your baby changes position and wriggles around and you find yourself moving your baby around from arm to arm and into different positions to be able to hold them. A sling will hold your baby securely and it spreads their weight evenly meaning you can comfortably carry your baby for much longer periods of time.
Manual Handling Techniques:
Good manual handling practises say that any load lifted (e.g. a box) should be held tightly and well supported by both hands and kept in close to your body. The same principle applies when using a sling. When your baby sits in an ergonomic sling they are supported by the material from the back of one knee to the back of the other knee so the weight is taken all the way across. The seat your baby sits on is also brought around your torso and secured at your back, the shoulder straps are secured separately.
Your baby is also held in tight and up high helping you maintain your centre of gravity.
In a narrow based carrier your baby’s legs are hanging downwards. This can throw off your centre of gravity and pull you forward which puts pressure on your back. Also some narrow based carriers do not have a waist band and are held from the shoulders only causing more pressure.
Narrow Based Carrier
Stiletto’s or Flats?
Think of shoes, a flat pair of shoes is much more comfortable then a pair of stiletto heels. You may have argued that the stilettos were just as comfy in your partying days before you had children but now I’m sure you can see that flat shoes are much more comfy 😉 Flat shoes hold your whole foots weight the whole way across from toe to heal (like an ergonomic sling holding baby from one knee to the other knee). With a stiletto all the weight is held at the bottom of your foot and tends to be less comfortable (like a narrow based carrier where the baby’s weight is held by a narrow piece at the groin).
Ring Slings & Posture:
Mums often worry that a ring sling will hurt their back as it’s one shouldered but they are often surprised how supportive and comfortable the ring sling is once they have tried it on. Ring Slings take some learning to get correct but once you do they are fantastic for the times that you would be balancing a child on your hip as you often see parents doing. Carrying a child in your arms on your hip tends to throw your hips, spine and shoulders out of joint and can be a cause of back pain. If wearing a Ring Sling correctly the weight will be evenly distributed over your shoulder and across your back. Your shoulder, spine and hips will be properly aligned. For longer periods of time or for walking a sling with 2 shoulders straps will offer more support.
Consider your own posture – are you standing up tall, shoulders back and tummy held in? If not try to remember this as it will help your overall posture and help protect your back.
Building Up Resistance:
Carrying your baby is a weight baring exercise so if you are new to babywearing you need to build up your bodies tolerance to carrying the weight (like if you start going to the gym and overdo it you tend to be sore the next day). The more you babywear the longer amount of time you’ll find you are able to carry for.
If you have recently given birth you may find your body isn’t as fit it used to be so you will need to start slowly again to rebuild your strength. The best part is that as your baby grows your body will adjust to carrying their weight and you’ll suddenly realise you can easily carry a 3 three year old when you may have found it harder to carry them as a newborn.
As your baby gets bigger and heavier you will find that they start to pull you forward which throws off your centre of gravity and puts pressure on your back. At this stage it is better to put your baby on your back. This happens at different times for people depending on their size, their baby’s size and the length of time they are carrying their baby for. A larger Daddy may be able to carry longer on his front than a smaller mum.
Other things to consider while babywearing is your own shoes, clothing or the activities you are doing.
The shoes you wear can have an effect on your back health in general but even more so when you are carrying the extra weight of your baby. Also you want to be have a stable base when walking with a baby in a sling so a high heal may not be a good idea.
Consider what you are wearing yourself. Clothing that are comfortable and not too tight will help. If clothing is too tight and you are carrying your baby in a sling you may find it causes uncomfortable spots when there is movement. Also bulky clothing that bunches up under a sling can be uncomfortable.
If you are finding yourself experiencing back pain you may need to tweak your technique. Adjusting straps, smoothing out creases or fabric that has bunched up, making sure shoulder straps aren’t too close to your neck can all help to ensure your sling is comfortable and easy on your back.
Méabh and Tricia xxx
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