One of the biggest surprises of being a grandparent is the toll it takes on your body. The joy of picking up your grandchild to hold her/him close can lead to a variety of aches and pains, especially in your back. Keep these tips in mind to reduce pain and improve your time with your little one.
The number one thing to remember, says Gabriel Enescu physical therapist and owner of Excel Physical Therapy, the creator of Active Senior Program, is to “bring your infant or grandchild close to your center line (or your center of gravity) before standing up.” For example, if you’re picking your baby up off of the floor, kneel on the floor to get closer to him, pick him up and snuggle him into your chest, then stand up.
Gabriel reminds everyone to engage their core; use those transverse abdominals to support your grandchild. And when initially picking her up, try to put more of the force into your elbows and core rather than your hands or wrists; not only are those muscles and joints stronger, but the further away the baby is from your body, the more stress it will put on your back. As Gabriel illustrates, “when you hold a 40-pound child firmly against your body, using your elbows to support her, it places less force on the lumbar spine than holding a glass or water straight out in front of you.”
If you are involved in transporting the grandchild to different locations be careful when lifting and carrying the car seat, especially when baby is inside — it’s the equivalent of lifting three to four paint cans. Be sure to carry the basket with both hands, and bend your elbows to help support the weight. And again, carry it as close to your body as possible.
When the car seat can no longer be loaded outside of the car, be sure to get your grandchild as close as possible to the seat before extending your arms to place him into the seat. If your car seat is in the center of the back seat, Gabriel advises sitting down next to the seat before lifting him into the harness. The key is to keep the child’s weight as close to your center of gravity for as long as possible, to reduce the stress to the lower back. And, when possible, avoid twisting your body to position your grandchild in the seat. Try to place yourself facing the seat instead.
Speaking of growing toddlers, beware of the balancing act on one hip. While it may feel like it reduces the stress of holding your grandchild by jutting out one hip and resting her weight on your outer hip bone, it shifts your posture and can affect the muscles along both sides of the back, shortening the muscles on one side while stiffening the muscles on the other side. It’s always best to carry your grand baby in front, with an even posture. If your toddler is getting too heavy for that, then use a stroller or have her stand or walk next to you.
Lastly, be aware of your posture even when pushing that stroller; keep your posture upright with a straight back and without hunching your shoulders. Gabriel would like to remind grandparents that the force to push the stroller should come from your entire body, not just your arms. Avoid pushing the stroller too far ahead of you because this will cause you to hunch your back and shoulders forward.