The warmer weather brings more chances for parents to get outdoors and ramp up physical activity with their little ones. From biking and hiking to walking and jogging, today's parents are keeping fit and bonding with their babies in the process.
With an array of products unheard of a generation ago - like baby carriers, joggers and trailers - even the tiniest among us are enjoying the great outdoors. But while these items can make life easier and more enjoyable for both parent and child, they can be the cause of pain and injury if not used properly.
As many parents know, backpack-style or front-side baby carriers can be effective tools for toting your little one. However, ACA spokesperson Karen Erickson, DC, cautions that there are risks involved with the popular backpack-style carrier.
"Because the cervical spine of a child less than a year old is not fully developed, it's important at that age that the head does not bob around. The backpack-type carrier is not ideal because the parent cannot watch to make sure the child's head is stable. So a front-side carrier is better for a very young child," says Dr. Erickson, a New York-based chiropractic physician.
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) urges parents to exercise caution and good judgment while exercising with their babies by following these tips:
•A backpack-style or front-side carrier decreases a parent's stability when walking or hiking. It is critical that a parent gets into shape before attempting to use one of these products.
•If using a backpack-style or front-side baby carrier, make sure to select one with wide straps for your shoulders and waist. This will help distribute the carrier's weight evenly. The shoulder straps should fit comfortably over the center of your collarbone.
•Once you place the child in the carrier, check to make sure there is no bunching of material against the child's body, particularly on the back, buttocks and spine. Isolated, uneven pressure like this can produce pain.
If you wish to use a baby sling, keep in mind that it is intended only for very young infants, and be sure to follow these tips:
•A baby can become very hot inside the sling, so be mindful of the temperature around you. Also, make certain the baby's breathing is clear and unobstructed by the sling's material.
•Switch sides when wearing the sling to balance the positional stress on you and your baby.
•Never run or jog while carrying a baby in any backpack-style carrier, front-side carrier or baby sling. A baby's body is not adjusted to the cyclic pattern that is a part of running and jogging. This motion can do damage to the baby's neck, spine and/or brain. It is better to use a jogging stroller.
•Don't forget about your own health and comfort. Bring yourself as close to the baby as possible before lifting, as you don't want to lift with your arms outstretched. Bend from the knees and hips and keep your back straight. Implement a two-stage lift that consists of a) pulling the child up to your chest and then b) lifting straight up with your leg muscles.