The subject came up last week in the pelvic floor restore
class about carrying babies and toddlers.
It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. Lena Horne
As a babywearing consultant I was always asked ‘what’s the best sling’ and the answer is that there isn’t one – it all depends on what you want and what you like and what your needs are.
During my pelvic flor restore classes one question I am often asked is ‘what is the best position to carry my baby to protect my pelvic floor’ and the answer is that there isn’t one.
Principally it is the way you carry and the ability of your body to carry that are the points to explore and work on.
1) Let’s look at the type of carry first.
One particular carry is not the best – but varying the way
you carry is. Carrying in one position for long periods will end up fatiguing
your body and causing you to make compensations so you can keep carrying – that
maybe jutting out a hip, thrusting out your chest or pushing your tummy forward
to balance your baby on – and that is the same whether you are carrying in arms
or in a sling.
Pushing out your chest or tummy to rest your baby on creates a downward pressure on your pelvic floor. Jutting out your hips destabilises your pelvis and your pelvic floor.
So the answer is to regularly change the way you are carrying
your baby. Front, hip, the other hip, on the back, sometimes in a sling
sometimes in arms, sometimes pass the baby to someone else to carry, make use
of a buggy if you have one.
Carrying in arms is a useful way to realise how often you will change the way you carry your baby – it will also encourage your baby to get involved in being carried so they can exercise their gripping muscles in hands and legs.
2) Fit of the sling
Anything that tightens around the waist and puts pressure on your stomach is also going to create a downward pressure on your pelvic floor. The answer here is to either fasten the band around your hips or to use a carry that fastens around your chest or is just a shoulder carry.
Most slings and carriers are designed to be used in at least 2 ways – front back or one side or the other. It can be easy to just keep ploughing along in the same carry and not realising how your body is making compensations as you tire. It won’t matter how well adjusted your carrier or sling is if your body has reached its endurance limits you will find you may be using your body in a way that puts extra stress on your pelvic floor.
3)Your body’s ability to carry
Poor postural habits mean that you adopt positions when
carrying your baby, either in a sling or in arms, that cause downward pressure
on your pelvic floor and often compression of the lower back. The first ‘fix’
is to examine your alignment.
Having your body stacked so you don’t create downward
pressure on your pelvic floor. The first step is understanding what optimal alignment
Using bony markers – that Is parts of your own body- to work out optimal alignment means you can check it whenever you need to. Becoming aware of your body – it’s own alignment as it is today, the ways it compensates, the habits it has during carrying and moving and sitting and standing means you can be sympathetic to it’s needs, know how often to remind yourself to change carrying position and what exercises will be useful to increase your strength.
So what are the bony markers?
Ribs and pelvis.
Find the bottom of your ribs and putting your hands on your hips find the bony protrusion under your finger tips. It is these two points that need to line up – that is come on the same plane.
A thrust out chest not only puts pressure on your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor but also creates compression in your lower back.
It’s not just a matter of forcing yourself into correct alignment and holding it there. You need to have corrective exercises that can release tension, lengthen short muscles and strengthen weak ones so your body can regain it’s natural alignment. You need to alter lifestyle habits that hold you in positions that create tension and weakness – so that is creating movement breaks throughout your day, sitting less and finding ways to cycle through a range of movements during your day.
4) Building strength
A big part of my pelvic floor restore class is helping women
retrain their bodies to have a reflexive core and pelvic floor This involves learning
optimal breathing, strengthening glutes, hips and hamstrings so they are used
as the powerhouse for lifting and carrying.I will be writing a part two to this blog
looking at exercises you can do to help strengthen your body so it can carry
your baby more easily.
Rosie Dhoopun is a babywearing consultant and movement teacher, specialising in helping women move better and feel better and rehabilitate pelvic floor dysfunction, diastasis recti and prepare for birth.