Are you Grandkid ready? Looking after grandchildren is one of those joys in life which, while extremely rewarding, it can also take its toll on the body. Striding out quickly (or running) in pursuit of a runaway grandchild, or picking them up when distressed, and generally just moving differently when they are around, sometimes leaves the body feeling tired and painful. Lifting children can be problematic for the back, shoulders and neck. Remaining strong (or becoming stronger) is key to help your body cope.  

This is the first of series of 2 blogs where we will talk about the various steps you can take to look after yourself to ensure you can enjoy those times being around your grandchildren.  

In this first blog, we will look at common problems you may experience and the solutions you can try when dealing with those gorgeous newborns and the energetic toddler.  

Holding a newborn for hours or repeatedly picking them up can be a problem for your shoulders and neck. When you are repeatedly reaching forward with your arm or it is held in a sustained forward position while holding a newborn, the muscles at the back of the shoulder that give the shoulder blade and neck support become elongated and weaken over time. The shoulder then starts to naturally sit a little too low and too far forward – which upsets the mechanics of the shoulder leading to pain, aching, and sometimes pinching as you lift your arm. 

The shoulder relies heavily on muscle strength for stability  all this can be avoided by improving the strength of the shoulder and the shoulder blade and becoming aware of the impact repeated movements can have on the body.  

Here are few exercises that can help strengthen the shoulder:  

 

Scapula retraction 

  1. Start either sitting or standing upright, with your hands on your hips. 
  2. Lift your sternum upwards and draw and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5 seconds. Relax and repeat 5 times.

 

Wall push ups  

Facing a wall with arms outstretched at shoulder width apart and hands on the wall, bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the wall with your body straight. 

  1. Stand up straight facing a wall.  
  2. Take a step back and place the palms of your hands on the wall at shoulder height, slightly wider than your shoulders and keeping your elbows straight.  
  3. Bend your elbows, taking your chest towards the wall. Keep your body in a straight line and tighten your buttocks and abdominals. Try to keep your head from poking forward. 
  4. Return to the starting position by straightening your elbows, lifting your chest away from the wall.

 

Arguably the most physically challenging grandchild will be the toddler, in particular the hefty and energetic 15kg toddler who wants to be picked up continually or wants you to be on the floor with them.  

Let’s deal with getting on and off the floor. The issues arrive when you are faced with not only getting on the floor but then need to get up again. Make sure you have prepared the way – have a chair close by to use as leverage when getting up. It’s a great idea to practice with someone else in attendance before you find yourself face to face with a small person on the floor and no idea how on earth you are going to get up again.  

The other issue that can arise from reaching down and picking up 15kgs of toddler is the repeated bending. Repeated bending of the lower back can lead to stress on the lower back, in particular the discs and soft tissues, resulting in lower back pain.  

Here are a few tips that may help:  

  1. Squatting and bending at the hips instead of bending forward at the lumbar spine is important to protect your back. 
  2. Reduce the number of times you bend forward each day. Ask the toddler to climb onto a small stool first, then pick them up, bending at the knees and hips.
  3. Protect your back each time you go to lift by bracing. This activates the muscles around your back and abdomen that protect and stabilize it.