One way to avoid pain is to start practicing good back mechanics, says Alex Pirie, physical therapist and coauthor of How to Raise Children Without Breaking Your Back. Pirie's own experience as a day-care provider and father of three provided the inspiration for the book. He recommends:
- Bend at the knees to lower yourself, rather than from the waist.
- Use your leg muscles when lifting.
- Put down the side railing of the crib and move the baby over toward you before picking him up.
- Hold your child as close to your body as possible when lifting.
- Switch sides every 5 or 10 minutes when carrying your child, so you don't overuse one side of your back.
Fortunately, as a child grows, you get stronger. "It's like a slow-progression weight-lifting program," says Pirie. Doing a few back-muscle strengtheners every other day can also help. (If you've recently given birth, check with your doctor first.)
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, back against a wall. Slowly slide down into a crouch, bending your knees, aiming for a 90-degree angle. Count to five and slide back up the wall. Repeat five times.
Lie on your stomach, arms at your side. Lift your right leg up and hold, working up to a count of 10. Lower the leg; switch sides. Repeat five times.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor and reach past your knees with both hands. Count to ten. Repeat five times.