Are you achy and exhausted all the time? No, you’re not just getting older (although parenting will age you faster), it could be that you’re suffering from repetitive stress injuries from carrying a baby. It’s a serious problem, but luckily there are some things you can do to lessen your pain.

After pregnancy, “Your body is completely changed,” Dr. Karen Sutton, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Stamford, Connecticut’s Hospital for Special Surgery, explained to The New York Times. Joints and ligaments loosen, your abdominal muscles separate and your pelvic floor muscles are weakened, leaving your core weak postpartum—which can all lead to bad posture and back pain when lifting and carrying a baby.

Here’s how you can combat all those body aches when carrying your little one.

Photo: timkraajivanger via Pixabay

Scapular Retractions

Several times a day, like each time your changing the baby’s diaper, perform 10 scapular retractions, says Dr. Sutton, which means pulling your shoulder blades toward your spine.

Stay Supported

Whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding, all that time holding your baby as they eat can create a strain on the back, neck and arms if you don’t have the right support. “Your arm should be supported so you can relax those muscles and not be constantly straining them,” says Anna Ribaudo, a physical therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Car Seat Transfers

Bending and twisting to secure your infant in the car seat can take a toll. “I teach them, take your time, face the car seat, bend at the hips and knees, don’t twist,” says Dr. Ribaudo. Also, are you carrying your car seat the right way?

Kegels

Dr. Sutton suggests starting with simple exercises to build strength. Ah kegels: those pelvic floor exercises you meant to do, but never got around to during pregnancy can help postpartum too.

Be Patient

“It took your body 10 months to get here,” Dr. Ribaudo says, “I think unfortunately in our society, giving birth has become something where everyone’s expected to bounce back in a month or two, and it’s just not true.”

—Shahrzd Warkentin

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