Babywearing, in and of itself, is a workout. But if you want to wear your little one without experiencing too much shoulder and back pain, you need to get your body ready.
Babywearing doesn’t just gift you with hands-free parenting. It also strengthens your bond with baby, promotes your little one’s development and helps him be calmer, decreases the risk of SIDS and flat-head syndrome, and even helps prevent postpartum anxiety and depression. But when not done properly, babywearing can be tough on the body; and when it gets painful, parents may be reluctant to do it, especially for longer periods of time.
So to help you comfortably carry your new bundle on the outside, we’ve put together four exercises that will strengthen your core and back muscles and prepare you for this new journey. Better yet, these exercises, which you can start doing towards the end of your pregnancy, can even help alleviate some of the discomforts that you may experience in the third trimester.
1. Standing pelvic tilts. This move is a great way to gently work your core, which is essential for wearing that hefty bundle of yours. Plus, it can combat that arch in your lower back that comes with late pregnancy, as the bump pulls down.
How to: Find a wall and lean your back against it. You will most likely have your upper back against the wall but not your lower back. Keep your feet hip width apart. Then tilt your pelvis forward and down, or, as they say in yoga, lengthen your tailbone. You will see your belly lift up and should be able to get your lower back closer to the wall. Do three sets of 15 repetitions.
2. Goddess squat. More than just preparing for baby wearing, this exercise is works very well as labor preparation as well. It also gives you strength in the legs and feet and alleviates lower back pain.
How to: In order to get into a low squat like this one, make sure your feet are much wider than hip width apart and your toes are turned out. Then hold onto a sturdy structure to maintain some balance as you come down into a squat, where your bottom sits against your heels. The key here is to not lift the heels off the ground and to try and relax into the position. The grounding and leg strength is what you will take far into your postpartum journey. Try and stay in the squat for 30 seconds and do three repetitions of it.
3. Neck stretch while kneeling. As you are getting used to wearing baby, you may feel tension in your neck and shoulder areas. Though it will get better over time, this stretch is perfect to get ahead of the game and will help avoid neck pain when you are a new mom and wearing and gazing down at your baby all day. It should also feel good all around, especially towards the end of your pregnancy.
How to: Come to a kneeling position and sit comfortably on your feet or in between your feet with a blanket under your hips. This alone may open up the fronts of your legs and get the circulation going. Then place one hand on the top of your head. Elongate the other arm by your side with your palm facing down. While you gently stretch the neck by pulling the head over to one side, work against that stretch by pressing the other palm down towards the ground. Make sure you aren’t pressing too hard. You should only feel a gentle stretch and not try and get your head all the way down to your shoulder.
4. Single leg deadlift. This position will also help gently maintain core strength and combat the back arch that you may develop while wearing a baby in a carrier.
How to: Find a sturdy structure or a wall to hold on to. Then lean forward and come into warrior 3 pose as you would do it in yoga. Make sure that if you don’t have the balance to do this free standing, you hold on to a wall. Extend one leg back and keep your hips level while trying to round your back to avoid slumping. Slowly come back up to a standing position. Don’t do this too fast as you may feel a bit light headed. Try between five and ten repetitions on each leg and hold the extended leg up for about three breaths.
Photography by Stephania Photography.