Babies are pretty helpless. And tiny. But mostly helpless. Therefore, holding them is a very big part about having a baby. However, in addition to being helpless, they are pretty heavy. Not adult sized heavy, but they certainly aren’t light. Therefore, carrying them around all the time is not necessarily an easy task. It takes a lot of love and necessity to constantly carry around something that is eight pounds at its lightest.
In addition to being heavy, they are also very fragile. So not only do they need to be held all the time, but they need to be held absolutely correctly. If even one limb is out of place for too long, then the development of the kid can be somewhat less than ideal. Therefore, it is important for both the mother and the baby that the kid is held in the least stressful way possible. What might be super comfortable for the kid might not be super comfortable for the mom, but at the same time, what is super comfortable for the mom might not be super comfortable for the kid.
Luckily, in the year 2017, there are endless places where proper baby holding techniques can be taught, and they are all accessible to anyone with an internet connection. So instead of talking about the proper way to hold a child, and risk beating a dead horse, here we will discuss some things to avoid at all costs, for both the mother's and the baby's safety and comfort.
15 Dangling Legs
One common mistake that a lot of mothers make is letting their baby's legs dangle. Babies are incredibly fragile, and their hips are where a lot of problems tend to crop up. Humans in general, specifically Americans, sit a lot of the day, so many people have hip issues as they age. Therefore, it's best to give people the best start that we can, and it's best to start as a baby.
If the baby's legs are dangling too often, then they are at risk of hip dislocation or hip dysplasia. These are two very un-fun conditions, and often need corrective surgery to fix. It's bad enough most adults have no idea how to take care of their joints, it's bad karma to get their life started off with bad hips. This is why it's important if the mother does use a carrier to make sure it supports them by the back of the legs, so it's like they're sitting. otherwise, the weight of their legs could yank the joint right out of the socket.
14 Not Supporting Head
This one is considered common knowledge, but it's certainly something to be mentioned here. It's pretty easy to be reminded to properly support the baby' head; if it is not properly supported, it will roll back. The neck muscles of a baby are not strong enough to support their own head, so bad things can happen if we don't do it for them.
If a baby's head is not supported properly, then that could mean some serious issues for the baby. If it rolls backward, it can cause brain damage, as the brain moves around quite a bit in their little skull. Those slings are not recommended either, as, without the ability to move its head, the baby often finds itself in a position where it can suffocate. When holding a baby it is very important to note where its head is, so as to not inadvertently do some damage, as it is often irreversible when it comes to the head.
13 Switch Sides Aggressively
One thing that moms often do as time goes on is they get somewhat careless with how they carry the baby around. This is especially true if it is not her first kid. She gets confident in her abilities, which is often a good thing when taking care of children, as people are often overcautious at first. However, it's important to not get careless when it comes to handling the baby.
One thing that some women do is they get a little too aggressive when switching the side that she is holding the baby on. For instance, if she has the baby in her right hand but she wants to use that hand, she sort of shuffles the baby to the left hand. However, during that shuffle, if she is not careful, oftentimes the head can get jostled a little bit. Those little bits add up quickly. If someone is holding a baby and they need to switch sides, then they just need to be mindful in doing so.
12 Not Supporting Head While Breastfeeding
This one was a little difficult to distinguish from the other head supporting one, but it certainly has its place here. The reason the distinction should be made is many women often feel like gravity is doing a lot of work when they are breastfeeding. However, the women that think like that are greatly overestimating the strength of the baby’s head. Some even depend on the suction of the baby’s mouth, but that is a vast overestimation.
When breastfeeding, the mom still needs to support the head. Again, some serious damage can be done by having a floppy neck. It’s also important to make sure the head doesn’t lean inwards on the woman’s breast too much, as the baby could actually suffocate against the breast. According to some people that may not be the worst way to go, but it’s certainly not a good way either. Just make sure the head is supported, and someday the kid will be able to hold its own head up.
11 Multitasking Around Anything Hot
This one seems like an absolute no-brainer. Alas, it is not, so it made this list. Many people find it difficult to get all necessary things done during the day. Throw having a baby into the mix and things get really hectic. Therefore, some women get really good at multitasking. However, there are certain combinations that just shouldn't be made while multitasking. Holding a baby and drinking hot coffee, or worse yet cooking, is not a good combination.
Just because the baby is sleeping now doesn’t mean it isn’t going to wake up. If it does wake up, and it gives a little kick, if the woman isn’t expecting it, then she could drop her mug of coffee. The best case scenario then becomes it lands on the floor. Worst case, on the baby. Even if the baby has nothing to do with it, say the woman is walking to the couch with her coffee, and then she trips. What then?
10 Tightly Swaddled And Held
This is one that actually goes against some baby books, so take it with a grain of salt. However, there are studies that have shown that keeping the baby constantly swaddled very tightly is bad for their hips. The reason being is their legs are too straight, and the ball on the end of the hip bone incorrectly molds to the hip socket. This could mean a lot of troubles for the kid as they grow up.
Again, the number of Americans with poor hip flexibility is alarmingly high, and the number is only growing. Therefore, we should be doing everything in our power to make sure that the kid has the best start as they can so that, as society forces them to sit all day long, their base level of hip joint health isn't already low. It will also be easier for them to maintain healthy hips if they develop correctly.
9 Bad Hip Positioning
This is similar to the swaddling one but in a different way. Again, there are many ways for the hips to go wrong. One thing that is important not to do is keep the legs in any direction that they don't want to go in. The ideal position for a baby's legs, especially if they are laying on their back, is to have the feet straight up in the air, toes pointed out, and bent at the knees. There is actually a yoga pose called the happy baby because that is what the posture looks like.
If a baby’s legs are not able to do this for any reason, such as keeping them tucked while being held, then the hips could again develop incorrectly. This is a good place to put in that proper development of the hips is important for other things to develop properly. On the flip side of that, improper development of the hips is a good starting place for many joint issues as time goes on.
8 Slouching While Holding Baby
So now that we’ve covered a few ways that the baby can get messed up from weird holdings, let’s move onto the mom. She is holding this eight-ish pound bundle most of the time. And the eight pounds is just at the beginning, this kid is only going to grow. All of a sudden, it becomes a workout just to pick this kid up. Therefore, we’ll go over a few things for the mom to keep in mind for her own sake.
One of these things is to have her remember to not slouch if holding the baby. Slouching is terrible anyways, but adding, however, many pounds to her frame doesn't help the situation at all. Slouched shoulders cause weak upper back muscles, tight chest muscles, and is often a big cause of lower back pain. It's important for anyone to remember to stand with the abs engaged and the shoulders pushed back and down, but it's especially important for someone who is going to be holding a baby a lot.
7 Extending Thumb While Holding Baby
This one may seem trivial, and almost a bit nit-picky. However, according to occupational therapists, it is anything but. There is actually a condition known as "mommy thumb" because it happens so often. It has a more sophisticated name, De Quervain Syndrome, but many know it as mommy thumb.
Essentially, when a woman is holding a baby (and it is more common in females, just because of the way their hand is set up) she should keep the thumb tucked close to the rest of her fingers. If she does not, then a lot of the baby's weight ends up on the thumb itself, and since it is not meant to be a super load-bearing muscle, it ends up straining two of the ligaments in the hand. Something people don't recognize is that the hand actually doesn't have any muscles in it, just ligaments and tendons. The muscles that control it are all in the forearm, so anytime a lot of weight is on the hand, the ligaments are taking a beating.
6 Bending Wrist While Holding Baby
This is another one that might not seem like a big deal, but most repetitive based injuries never seem like a big deal while they are happening. Keeping the wrist in as neutral of a position as possible is the best way to hold the baby. If the wrist is flexed, over time this will wear on the tunnels in the wrist.
One of the most common repetitive motion injuries is carpal tunnel syndrome, and it is nothing to joke about. Many people who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome can barely move their hands in certain ways. Carrying heavy things in awkward positions is one of the best ways to develop this condition. In addition to carpal tunnel, keeping the wrist flexed adds a ton of strain onto the ligaments and tendons, and is a good way to develop tendonitis or another condition which will require either a splint, some occupational therapy, or, in extreme cases, surgery.
5 Not Keeping Proper Lines
This one is important for the mom's hip health, but also for her posture. If one hip is sticking out to the side, and especially if she is using it as a sort of shelf to rest the baby on, then over time she will most likely develop some sort of strain on her hips. The hips, although not quite as fragile, are built quite a bit like the shoulder. The ball and socket arrangement makes for a great deal of mobility but also is a good chance for injury.
Any sort of asymmetrical stance is bad for the body. Adding weight to that stance is extra bad news, as we discussed a bit before. Therefore, when a woman is holding a baby, she should keep her hips as close to even on both sides as she can, as well as standing up tall so that her butt is not sticking out, which creates a lot of issues for the lower back.
4 Not Keeping Baby Close
This one is hard to visualize just by the title, so let's try and paint a clearer picture. Try to avoid extending the arms out. It's important to try and physically keep the baby (or any heavy thing, really) as close to the body as possible. The reason for this is it puts less strain on the muscles and allows the skeletal frame to take up a good deal of the work. Again, human shoulders are very weak, so it's good to put as little stress on them as possible.
Again, this goes for other heavy things as well. Many mothers often try to carry the baby, a diaper bag, her purse, and maybe some groceries all in one go. When she does this, some stuff ends up being held by an extended arm. Later that night her whole left side is killing her, and while she might not know why, we now do. Be good to the body, moms, even though it is admittedly very difficult.
3 Not Lifting With Legs
This is a classic one when anybody is talking about picking anything up. However, when picking a baby up out of their crib, or off the floor, or out of the sink, or bathtub, it gets more important for a few different reasons. One of which is, if they experience a twang in the back when picking something up, the first instinct is often to drop the thing. However, for our purposes, that thing is a baby human, so not dropping it is key. Another reason is the frequency with which a baby is picked up.
Lift with the legs, not the back is incredibly easy advice to give, but not always easy to follow. What it means is try to avoid bending at the waist as much as possible. When it is necessary, don’t let the lower back bend, but rather hinge at the hips. The spine should never round, and if it does, it’s at serious risk for injury. And back injuries can be incredibly debilitating.
2 Not Switching Sides
This one is actually important for both the mom and the baby. For the mom, it is a good idea so as to try and create as much symmetry as possible on both sides of her body. If she is constantly holding the baby on her left side, for instance, then over time her left side is going to almost sag a little bit. The joints on her left side will have much more wear and tear on them over time.
For the baby it is important to switch sides so that both sides of the neck can develop properly. As we have discussed, their neck muscles are very weak. If they are constantly being supported from one side, however, say their left side, then the right side will get pretty strong, but the left side may start to lack a bit. This is a problem for obvious reasons. Nobody wants to be able to turn their head to the left and then flop to the right.
1 Not Taking Breaks
This is another one that is way more important than it sounds. Again, the baby is quite heavy. And it keeps getting heavier and heavier as it grows to be more of a person over time. If the kid had its way, mom would hold it all the time, from sunup to sundown. Kids like their moms, that is no surprise. However, if the mom starts to get tired, she has every right to put the kid down and take a break.
Not only does this allow her joints a rest, but it also gets the kid used to not being held. If she did hold the kid all the time, the kid would get more and more upset every time she did put him down for bed, or for a bath or to eat. Plus, if she fights through lactic acid (i.e. already sore muscles), the chances of dropping the baby increase, which is obviously never a good thing.
Sources: Mamaot.com, CandoKiddo.com, BeingTheParent.com, Purechiro.ca, Livestrong.com