Advice for New Moms from a Physical Therapist

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I am a mom and physical therapist. There are some things I learned in physical therapy school that helped prepare me for being a new mom. These things, I believe, should be public knowledge for new moms, not specific to students in graduate school. So here are some things I want you to know:

1. Back to sleep, prone to play

I am sure we have all heard “back to sleep” by now. It is important for infants’ safety to be placed on their backs for sleep. However, it is also important that they do something called, “prone to play.” This means belly time! Whether you lay reclined with baby’s belly to your chest or position baby on her belly during floor time, it is important for baby’s motor development that she have time off her back when awake.

2. Hip positions 

During the first year, baby’s hips aren’t as stable and secure as they are in adulthood or even later in toddlerhood. To ensure proper hip development, it is important to keep baby’s hips supported in a spread squat position (or “M” position) when he is in a carrier or wrap. If you are swaddling baby for sleep, it is also important to make sure baby can freely bend his legs up at his hips. 

3. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

Not only are there things to look out for in your baby, but don’t forget about yourself, mama! It may be appropriate for you to see a pelvic floor physical therapist before, during, or after pregnancy.

Some common reasons to seek intervention include:

    1. Diastasis recti (separation of abdominal musculature)
    2. Incontinence
    3. Pain with sexual intercourse

Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about getting a physical therapy referral.

4. Ergonomics during feeding

Bring baby to you, not you to the baby, in order to save your back and neck. As much as you can, use supports to hold your baby, rather than your own muscles. This means pillows, boppy pillows, rolled up blankets, and footrests. I really like the My Brest Friend because of the adjustable strap that allows for snug and individualized positioning.

Also, many rocking chairs are too high for feet to touch the floor when seated all the way back in the chair. To have both back and legs supported, you may need to place a pillow between your back and the back of the chair, and a step stool under your feet.

5. Don’t Rush into solids

Wait until baby is sitting independently before beginning solids. Proper swallowing with decreased risk for choking begins with proper positioning of the pelvis. Think about how difficult it is to swallow if you are reclined. The same goes for your baby. If they don’t have the proper control to support themselves in sitting, they are unlikely to have all the control involved for chewing and swallowing. (This is generally the case but please follow your doctor’s recommendation for when to start solids)

*Please note this is all general educational information and not medical advice. If you need more specific information, please reach out to your physician. They may provide a referral to physical therapy so you can obtain individualized information for your specific situation.

For more information, check out these physical therapy accounts on Instagram: 

Have you tried any of these methods for your baby? What worked well for you?

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Brittany is a mom, wife, and outgoing introvert who recently moved to the Columbia area in 2022! She has lived in many different cities from the East Coast to the Midwest and is happy to now call Columbia home. Building a sense of community is one of the reasons she and her family decided to come to Columbia and why she is very excited to be a part of the Columbia Mom team. Physical and mental health is also very important to her. As a physical therapist, she has witnessed the powerful connection of the mind and body and how both need to be given the proper TLC. In her spare time, she enjoys perfecting the fine art of sleep procrastination, listening to podcasts or books on tape, doing anything active, and adding unnecessary items to her Amazon cart. Photo by: Zach and Sarah Photography

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