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How You Roll: Avoiding Pitfalls of Pushing a Stroller

By Martha Michael

The Healthy Way to Push a Stroller

We’ve all seen it -- the new mom out on the street, hunched over, struggling to push baby uphill in a stroller lacking any aerodynamic advantages. As her pregnancy comes to an end, the heavy burden an expectant mother carries will be lifted, at least in part. But the potential for back-tweaking is still there, because even if baby is just 8 pounds, the equipment that goes with the territory isn’t.

Your Body’s Healthy Pram-eters

When baby’s ready to see the world and get out of the house, it’s a good idea to spend some time pushing the pram -- the English word for stroller -- on the sidewalk for a bit of fresh air. But you don’t want to get a little exercise at the expense of a lifetime of chronic back pain.

Your very first act -- leaning over and placing baby securely in the stroller -- can do you in from the outset and prevent you from getting out the door. Bend at the knees and carry the weight in your legs and thighs, not the arms, when you lift your baby, says a Consumer Reports article about enjoying new parenthood.

“One of the most common causes of injuries is lifting the child the wrong way,” says Jennifer Solomon, MD, from Women’s Sports Medicine at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery. “It’s about using the legs and keeping the baby nice and close.”

When new mommies bend over at the waist and reach out, they can end up with back issues. Instead, try to adjust the height of your surface area, whether it’s what you’re standing on or where you’re placing baby.

A lot of parents choose the car seat-to-stroller sets these days, which means a lot of lifting and carrying. Avoid stretching and twisting motions, when possible. “We all tend to reach over to the car seat,” Dr. Solomon says. “You need to get as close as possible to the seat, bracing yourself prior to lifting the child.”

Post-Partum Problems

If you’re already feeling those aches and pains, you wouldn’t be the first new parent to overdo it. If so, your chiropractor can assess any damage that may have occurred. It may mean taking it easy for a while or applying ice and/or heat to the area that’s strained.

At this time in your life you want an expert, so consult your chiropractor -- not a neighbor or relative -- for exercises and a healthy home routine. Your body’s still fragile and needs the care of a health professional.

In every stage of life there are certain habits you don’t want to neglect. You always need exercise, and serendipitously, getting your weight back down to normal protects your back also.

In addition to the care for your bundle of joy, you’re also responsible to make sure you’re maintaining maximum health. When you’re past the post-partum phase, you’ll want to get back in your routine, which may require you to be resourceful. If you don’t have family nearby, it could mean joining a babysitting co-op or juggling work schedules.

Regular visits to your chiropractor keeps your spine in check. If you’re receiving frequent spinal adjustments, it helps stave off serious injury, which has a higher likelihood when you’re moving in ways you didn’t for the last nine months. You’re more likely to feel yourself again, despite a big (and wonderful) change in your life.

Know When to Stroll Them

A new mom doesn’t need to kick it into gear the moment she gets home with baby – it can take the better part of a year to feel you’ve fully regained your strength. You have enough on your plate immediately following delivery, so take it slow.

First, rest for a period of six to eight weeks after you give birth, says the Stanford Children’s Health website in an article for new parents.

“A mother needs to take good care of herself to rebuild her strength,” the article says. “You will need plenty of rest, good nutrition, and help during the first few weeks.”

A mother of a newborn shouldn’t feel like she has to entertain when friends and family come by to see the baby, and if there’s a family member who can help with chores in the home, it enables the new mother to become more rested.

And if you’re eyeballing the stroller in the corner of the room, before you roll out, engage in some stretching to offset tension or strain of your upper back, neck or shoulders that might otherwise occur.

Parents Magazine has a move for new moms called the neck release stretch, which begins when you stand or sit with your spine straight. Slowly drop your left ear down toward the left shoulder and gingerly place your left hand on top of your right ear to help it stretch a little bit more. Hold for five breaths and then do the same on the other side.

This time will never come again, and you want to enjoy your baby through the ups and downs and at various stages. But be sure to take the necessary precautions so it’s baby who gets around with the aid of a walker -- not you.

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