Ergonomics & Parenting
Before I became a mom, I knew that parenting meant taking on a second job (but one in which I wholeheartedly love!!), but I really had no idea what this really meant. Sure, the main goal is to keep a little human alive and thriving, providing them endless love and learning opportunities (all the fun stuff!), but what about the toll it takes on the parent’s body?
Written December 2017
by Tonya LaFranchi, MOST, OTR/L
ErgoFit Consulting, Inc.
Let’s start with sleep deprivation. Everyone knows early parenthood = less sleep than you used to get (and for most pregnant women, this happens much earlier than the day your little bundle of joy enters the world). Sleep is an essential component of a human’s wellbeing. Without sleep, we get run down which makes it harder to concentrate, makes you feel drowsy (which can be dangerous if driving), and reduces your immune system leaving you more susceptible to illness. Not to mention, sleep deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure. Hmmm…….sorry parents, it is what it is but luckily this doesn’t last forever and we can make other lifestyle changes to help knock these negative effects out of the water!
This is where your support system comes in handy to help take the load off YOU. Additionally, getting exercise is important for your overall wellbeing and can help you get some rest – double bonus if you can do it outside and get some fresh air!
I have found that including my son is the best way for me to get moving, like going for walks or jogs with him in the stroller, or a home work out doing push-ups, squats and bicep curls using his hefty 20 lb weight. He giggles and laughs through the whole work out while I am huffing and puffing wondering when I will gain back my pre pregnancy fitness level….
Another eye opener as a new parent starts with a little story my mother told me of when I was an infant: She was having back pain and went to her doctor to see what was going on. He just looked at her and said, “you have small children, right?” End of story. As parents, we endure so many awkward postures when lifting, carrying, transferring and playing with our small children and we do it without second thought (unless we are in pain) because as parents, that’s what we do, our little ones are #1! I feel like my son gets heavier every day, and as the load increases on my body, so does my risk for injury! We must also consider how unpredictable a little human is and how much they move – wiggling, squirming, back arching, bouncing, etc., all of which can increase our risk for injury when we are unexpectedly and quickly having to bend or stoop to contain an acrobatic act.
So what does this all mean? Well, bottom line, as parents or caregivers, we must not forget about ourselves in our daily giving to our children. As an ergonomic consultant, occupational therapist, and mother, I have stepped back and done some task analysis, thinking about how I am going to approach a situation with my son before I put us both into a predicament.
I remind myself, if I get injured, parenting will become a whole different level of difficult. My son won’t understand why I can’t get on the floor and play or be able to hold him or pick him up from his crib. Clueing into our own bodies and identifying discomfort or over exhaustion before it becomes more serious is a way that we can keep our little ones and ourselves safe.
Remember, an overuse injury is not a result of that one specific incident when you felt the pain e.g. that one time you lifted your child and felt a twinge in your lower back. It is actually a result of repetitive awkward postures leading up to that incident where your body finally said “I have had enough!” So be a preventative parent/caregiver by adapting how you approach child care to ensure many more years of pain free fun with those little ones!
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