Congratulations, you now have a baby! And you can never put her down… Whether he’s in your belly or your arms, that bundle of joy can sometimes be a literal burden. In our culture, it is common to have little to no experience carrying heavy objects for hours a day. Then one day, we suddenly have an object that keeps getting heavier and cries when we put it down. This can be a shock for our bodies, like entering an athletic competition with no training. Whether you currently have children that you’re carrying or not, the following ideas can help you support that burden a bit more sustainably.
When we are tense, tired, or stiff, our bodies have ways of compensating and still accomplishing the task we need to do. Whether you’re carrying a baby or doing anything physically taxing, this is the time all your movement habits really show themselves. I try to make it a habit to check my form (when I can remember) whenever I pick my child up. The first thing I’ll notice is that, as always, she’s on my right side. It’s normal to have a preferred side you end up carrying your baby in—often the arm that is stronger or not as dexterous with the phone—but it can develop some one-sided strength in the long term. Whenever you aren’t carrying your baby over thin ice, try to make an effort to use your less dominant side.
The next thing I’ll check is whether I’ve made a shelf for my baby out of my hip or my ribs. This is a cool mechanism the body can do when we’re really tired and our burden is really heavy. The thing is, since most of us haven’t trained for parenthood by carrying our sister’s and cousin’s and friend’s babies around, a lot of us are pretty weak. Our bodies bring out the “shelf” trick right away. Jutting out our hip is fine in the short term, but if we do it all the time, we will never strengthen those muscles that should be doing the actual carrying work. That’s important because in addition to carrying babies, those muscles are also supposed to help hold our own bodies up against gravity and push the ground away when we walk. Try to see if you can stack your pelvis and ribcage back over your feet. If your baby feels heavier in your arms, that’s a good sign.
One thing I can’t do is help you make that burden lighter—that you have to do on your own. Babies are heavy, and they just get heavier. It can be tiresome, but it’s also Nature’s most brilliant weight-training program. As long as you keep carrying your baby, you will strengthen your body as they grow. Many parents can end up relying on strollers and other baby-carrying devices because their babies got heavier while the adults didn’t keep up their strength-building. While some injuries and a lack of community support can add to the challenge of baby carrying, all babies need to be picked up, so being able to hold your baby is a skill worth practicing at. Just like training in an athletic endeavor, the more care you take in refining your form, the more natural it will become.