Written by: Dr. Matthew DeLange, PT, DPT
Newborns and babies have one thing in common, they require being held a lot. Many times, this requires odd holds or positions for us as parents to calm them down or help them eat. For instance, my son in the first several weeks would only eat if we were standing, bouncing, and swaying all at the same time. As a parent, it takes a lot of energy and can become very taxing on the body. Your arms start to fatigue, which can cause pain very quickly if you don’t have adequate strength in the right place. And by right place, I actually mean it begins with your shoulder blade. Your shoulder blade is part of the shoulder joint and contributes stability to your arm. As you might guess, some of the best exercises to help with those long hours of holding your child involve working muscles that attach to your shoulder blade. Check out this list of exercises to maintain good strength along your shoulder blade and provide improved support for your arm. Do these exercises in sets of 10-15 once or twice a day, but no more, as those muscle get plenty of work already with your little one. Be sure to consult with your therapist or doctor if any of these exercises increase your pain.
SCAPULAR PROTRACTION - SUPINE - FREE WEIGHT - SERRATUS PUNCHES
Lie on your back holding a small free weight or soup can with your arm extended out in front of your body and towards the ceiling. While keeping your elbows straight, protract your shoulders forward towards the ceiling. Keep your elbows straight the entire time.
TABLE PLANK PLUS
Start in a push up position on your hands and leaning up against a table or counter top as shown. Maintain this position as you protract your shoulder blades forward to raise your body upward a few inches. Then, return to original position. Progress by standing further away from the table.
While lying down on your back, place one hand on your breast bone and one hand on your abdomen near your navel. Slowly take a deep breath in and focus on trying to get your hand on your stomach rise while the hand on your breast bone remains still. As you breathe in, the hand on your stomach should rise. When you breath out, the hand on your stomach should lower.
1. Find a device.
Whether it be a swing, rock-n-play or bouncy seat you can sit your child in that they enjoy. For us, it was a swing. Sometimes for your sanity you just need to be able to set the child down so find what works for you and give those arms a break.
2. Try new ways to carry your baby carrier so you aren't constantly straining your back.
Infant car seats really aren't designed ergonomically for you as a parent to carry, they are designed, as they should be for your child's safety. That being said, watch this video on a unique way to carry your baby carrier, that reduces the stress on your back.
Disclaimer: She doesn't like the elbow carry but that way is way better than trying to carry with just your hand. So if this new way is too uncomfortable or awkward for you, I'd recommend using the elbow carry.
3. If you begin to experience neck pain, get yourselves a Craniocradle!
(available for purchase for $40 at all of our locations)
To use the craniocradle, lay down flat and place it right where your skull meets your neck and practice deep breathing (at the bottom of the list of exercises above) for 5 minutes.
Hopefully these tidbits help you as you care for your little one. Good luck to all the new parents. It’s a whirlwind and a lot of fun!