Last winter I was busy doing my Sports Massage qualifications. One thing I became even more aware of during the training, is that everything in our bodies is connected. There is not one area we can look at isolated... at least when it comes to muscles, movements, and posture.
At Buggyfit, the first thing I tell new mums when they come along is how to push their buggies. You wonder why?
Have a look at this example.
In the first picture, the mum has forward rounded and raised shoulders. Her arms are straight and locked and she is pushing her bum out to the back. I see a lot of mums pushing their buggies like this.
So, why is this not good for her?
First of all, pushing a buggy is extra weight. The bigger the child/children, the bigger the load. So pushing a buggy is a load creating pressure in your core, and it's important how your body transfers that load.
All new mums have a weak core. That means the muscles in your belly and pelvic floor have been stretched the whole pregnancy carrying an extra load... and some mums had a tear, cut, or C-section on top of that. Soft tissue needs time to heal and during the healing period your soft tissue is compromised. Also, if you haven't worked on strengthening your core after having your baby, your core might still be very weak months or years later.
When your core is weak and you push your buggy, your body will find a way to push that load in front of you, obviously. And our bodies always want to win. So the body's coping strategy is to create leverage (leaning forward, pushing out bum, etc.) to push and move forward. However, this puts more pressure on your belly wall and your pelvic floor and can make issues like a diastasis, leaking, or low-back pain worse. Also, shoulders that are constantly pulled up or rolled forward create tension/pain in your neck area and compromise your breathing patterns.
In the second picture, the mum stands close to her buggy, her elbows are close to her side, her shoulders are low, and her back has a natural curve. This posture allows her to push her buggy using her core, while protecting her pelvic floor and breathing more effectively. She is now able to engage her deeper core muscles and breathe more freely, both of which will protect and help her pelvic floor.
(To find out more about how breathing and your core/pelvic floor are connected check out my Holistic Core Restore® classes)
A second example of mummy posture I would like to touch on is how we carry our children.
Similar to pushing the buggy, a mums body wants to make it possible for mum to carry her baby. In the first picture, the mum is locking her knees and her upper body leans backwards to balance the load in front of her. Again, this posture is creating a lot of pressure on the front wall of her belly. If she had a diastasis, this could make it worse, but even if she doesn't have a belly gap, she can't properly engage her core muscles. Her locked knees, have a knock on effect on her glutes - which cannot fire in this position either. Her lower back might start hurting as it is overcompensating for the weak and stretched front.
In the second picture, she stands with soft knees. She can now engage her glutes which helps to engage her pelvic floor. This will allow her to better engage her belly muscles and on top of that, she won't have to round her shoulders as much, which again has an effect on her breathing and therefore the engagement of her pelvic floor.
In my classes, mums don't exercise while holding their babies (on arm or in slings). And I think those pictures show pretty well why. If I have a mum whose muscles are weak and who is not able to stand up right (as said before, ALL new mums have a weak core) and she starts working out, with the extra weight in front of her, she actually works into her problem areas and creates a lot of pressure in exactly the areas she wants to strengthen. She might lose some weight, but she will not have a good effect on her inner strength. And reaching a point where your pelvic floor and your belly muscles can transfer the load you are putting on your body again is essential. Ignoring those issues can lead to hernias, organ prolapse and back pain, if not now then when this mum hits menopause.
Therefore, it's so important to train with someone who will make sure you are training in a beneficial way that is. And always do a screening before you start with them.
So stand up straight and mummy on,