Babies love and need to be carried and held. A lot.
Most of the time, moms need to do other things while holding their babies. When I became a mom, I realized very quickly that all these new activities and motions I was doing, mostly while holding a growing baby, were taking a toll on my body.
My body didn’t necessarily react well. I had constant aches and pains. Inflamed tendon from rocking with one foot too much. Hip and lower back pain from always carrying my daughter on the same side, with poor posture. Crick in my neck from looking down at her during feedings. I had mom friends who were experiencing similar things, and even requiring medical attention – ranging from chiropractors to cortisone shots!
I learned pretty quickly that I needed to use better techniques, and try to use both sides of my body as equally as possible to prevent discomfort and injury.
Post-partum, I got back to the gym. I was looking forward to getting back in shape, and trying new classes that I wasn’t comfortable trying while pregnant. I started taking some of the Les Mills classes – Body Pump and GRIT, specifically. These classes kicked my butt and got me in fantastic shape. I also began attending Fit Mommies, a boot camp style class that I could bring my daughter along to and let her play while I exercised.
In these classes, I learned lots of great weight lifting form and techniques from the instructors that helped me to lift weight not only effectively, but safely.
One day, I noticed myself using weight lifting techniques to lift my child. My body had learned how to lift properly, and subconsciously applied itself. Weight lifting had trained my body to lift weights – and now I needed to apply that training to lifting different weights.
Since that realization, I have been making a conscious effort to use proper technique as much as possible with my favorite little weights. It’s even more important today – since I now have two “weights” that occasionally both want me to carry them at the same time. But because of the strength I gained and the techniques I learned, I can safely bend down and pick up my toddler while holding my baby on the other side.
The most important tip I can offer to all the mamas out there is to try to always keep a flat back when lifting. This will help you to lift with your legs, not your back. If your back is flat, you almost can’t lift using just your back.
Here are some helpful weight lifting exercises and tips that I have found most applicable to motherhood.
Deadlift: Picking up a baby off the floor from a standing position
Flat back, slight bend in the knees, hinge from hips and keep back flat as you raise up
Lunges and Squats: How to pick something up off the floor while holding the baby
Upright posture, drop back knee straight down so your thigh is perpendicular to floor, both knees at 90 degree angles, try not to let front knee go in front of your toes.
Keep weight in your heels instead of toes, bend your hips/bottom back like you are trying to sit in a chair that’s a little too far away. In both exercises, don’t let your knees come out in front of your toes.
(In my opinion, squats may be the most important of all the weight lifting techniques to master for motherhood. There are many versions of squats, but the basics remain the same. Also, the technique of the squat is even more important the more weight you lift: on some occasions you may be holding one child and squatting down to pick up her pacifier off the floor, but other times you may be picking up a large bag of groceries or another child.)
Press: Playing with baby, or lifting baby to check diaper
Shoulders back and down away from ears, bend knees slightly for support.
In addition to specific weight lifting moves, here are some other techniques and tricks I’ve used to help prevent soreness and injury:
- When rocking in a chair, keep your foot/feet flat on the floor, pressing through the whole foot and bending at the knee/ankle.
- When feeding baby, if you want to look down, do so with your head turned to look at her but with your head supported either on the back of the chair or propped on your hand.
- When holding baby on one hip, try your best not to lean into that hip. Keep your posture as upright as possible.
- Foam roller! I keep one by my bed and on days when I have been carrying my baby a lot and feel like I’ve been sinking into my lower back, I roll out my back and hips for five minutes before crawling into bed.
- Invest in a good baby carrier. Slings and wraps are convenient for most baby wearing, but if you’re going to be wearing baby for a longer or more active time, you’ll want a really sturdy one that puts most of baby’s weight on your hips instead of pulling on your back and shoulders. My personal recommendation is this one.
Some of these things may seem silly when your baby is tiny, but keep in mind, your adorable little kettlebell is only going to keep growing – and they’ll still want you to hold and carry them! By using good technique, you’ll be able to lift them as much as you want.