Pain-Free Baby Holding

If you’re interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Movement Matters. If you’d like movement instruction via video, start with Alignment Snacks: Rhomboid Madness.

In terms of human performance, we have developed the habit of avoiding movement (drive-thrus, cars, hand-bags, strollers, convenience stores) in order to get more done. Getting more done, in this case, typically means non-biological activities like working, so while it seems like we are doing more, in fact, convenience still means we are doing less.

There is a delicate balance to nature and she has a way of supplying all the right situations for human growth. When it comes to babies, the act of in-arm carrying supplies not only the correct environment for maximal baby strength development, but also the opportunity for mom to continue to peak her upper body muscle contraction. The use of the arms not only keeps the lymph system (waste removal) process pumping about the breast area, but also helps keep the mechanics of smooth muscle lactation in prime condition.

And your arms end up looking pretty awesome too.

What keeps many from baby-holding is a lack of strength and, of course, the reality that you’re going to have to get less *stuff* done (I’m typing this at 4:40 AM because I won’t be able to later) while you get more of your biology on.

When arm strength isn’t there, many will use all sorts of tricks to “help” hold the weight of the baby, but then suffer the consequences of tight necks and shoulders, achy hips and low backs.

Because I love you, I made this video to give your baby-holding an alignment makeover:

{P.S. This is me, on my new farm, where our family is trying out a slow-food project. Can two native Californians (me and my Ayurvedic practitioner DH) ditch the land of no water and grow 25% of our daily calorie intake? I think yes, because I am an optimist. And a hard worker.}

One of our most recent whole-body alignment graduates, the Alignment Monkey, just posted about hanging from bars! She’s got some great stuff to say. Read her post here (click).

And, I wanted to share what is perhaps the best photo ever:

In case you couldn’t tell, this is a picture of a leopard slug sliming up my leopard garden boots.

I can only imagine that mating conversation:

Slug: Heeeey bay-bee. Heeey big girl. I haven’t see you around these parts before…

Shoe: _______________________

Slug: You play-in’ hard to get? How bout a big kisssssssssssssssssss.

The end.

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36 thoughts on “Pain-Free Baby Holding

    1. Hmmm, it’s not set to private on my end (you tube doesn’t allow you to embed private videos) and it says “public” on the video list. Can you try it again and see if it says the same thing? Also, here is a link to the video:

      What happens with the link?

  1. This is interesting!! I have noticed I can do monkey bars better since having my son but interestinigly I do think using a sling has helped me get upper body strength because I have had to use my body better rather than slouching – now I just need to tone my bingo wings – I waved goodbye to my other half the other day and nearly gave myself a black eye.

    Loving the wellies x

  2. Good luck on your farm! What about reciprocal arm swing when you are carrying baby or groceries or library books with your arms? Do you swing the other arm and switch off? I would imagine that it is important to not always use the same arm for holding even if your are doing it in good alignment. Is it a good idea to spend some of your walking time carrying a load even if you don’t have a baby?

    1. Yes, best to switch arms every couple minutes or so (you’ll feel nature’s prompt to do so 🙂 That way you have one arm swinging at least. I also have a nice back pack and side purse that I switch between depending on the nature of my walk!

  3. What about just carrying the baby more often to strengthen the biceps? Isn’t that a good solution?

    1. Yes, it will definitely help, but strength requires the full use of a joint and muscle length. Being able to do that will improve the ability to hold heavy things for a much (much) longer time…

  4. Thanks for this! My baby’s over 20 lbs now, and I’m starting to really feel it in my body. I’m gonna hit the monkey bars today!

    Have fun gardening! I hope you are making your own baby food, too, when Finn is ready. We are really enjoying doing that, and I feel good about growing the food that I put into my baby (and myself!).

    1. Wow! My kid is already at 20lbs. He’s a bruiser, I guess. Good luck with your little boy and your back!!!!

  5. So I hung from some monkey bars this morning and I noticed that I wanted to pull my head and neck up just a little by sort of rotating my shoulders out a bit. With my shoulders relaxed, I felt like my neck was being swallowed up, if that makes any sense.

    1. Allow yourself to relax (neck swallowed up is fine) and then practice some with the shoulders stabilized with the core musculature. They are both important!

  6. Thank you, thank you!

    So…. stay aligned, use the biceps, switch arms as fatigued, do pull-ups (work up to that) to increase endurance? Will do. (um, work up to doing)

    As the babe gets older do you encourage the hanging off of the back to improve THEIR upper body strength? I have been trying this with my littles (NOT the 4 month old) most mornings, and that seems like a really good exercise for them and me. They think it is LOADS of fun, but ask to be set down (I am not carrying them, they are using their arms and legs to stay on) after about 2 laps from the front door to back!

    Nice boots, and congrats on the farm! That is exciting, I hope you meet your goal (I am sure you will, but I hope sooner than later). My husband has grounded me (not really, just won’t build me another one) from gardening since I let weeds over-grow the previous 3. But I am more mature now. Really.

    1. Yes – it is super important for them to get their upper body strength! They should be participating in their carrying at a young age. My kid (at four months) is just about ready for the brachiation ladder!

  7. Every time I click the > in the middle of your video I get an error message asking that I try later. I just click the youtube icon at the bottom right and voila! no problem. Works for me.

    Great and useful post. Every time I’ve held Finn for any length of time I have had to monitor my tendency to rest my arms by letting my hips drift forward and lifting my ribs. I keep telling myself that soon, all my default positions will be reset to alignment :o)

    Stripes, solids and leopard print?!? You trendsetter, you

    Bucky F.

  8. Rosie… pushups are way better for your batwings! Easier to get into and offer a variety of styles and progressions to use a lot of arm/shoulder/pectoral etc muscles. Because it is a kind of plank exercise it will work your core too. Try wide, regular and narrow positions for your hands (pointing forwards). Work off your knees if a full plank position is too hard to start with. Also try chin-ups (use an under grip for these rather than an over grip) as an easier form of pullup which will also work your biceps more. Hope this all makes sense and helps.

  9. Now I know why I’m getting some pain in my SI joint (a problem for me at the best of times). I will try and swing my hips back! My main problem is that I’ve had shoulder issues in the past and I find that after quite a while of carrying my 16 month old (not light!!), the front of my shoulders (not my biceps) start to hurt. Can you offer me a solution for that. I’ve been advised in the past not to do too much biceps work, so that I don’t aggravate my shoulders. Also, I tend to carry my son quite centrally, so that I can share the weigh between both arms (although I favour the left if I have to do anything whilst holding Benjamin, as I’m righthanded), almost over the stomach area. Is it wrong to do that? Thanks, Emma. PS I love your boots!

    1. Yah – not strengthening your arms because it aggravates other upper body weaknesses isn’t very good advice. Holding centrally is ok, but I would cycle through many positions, which allows everything to be strengthened and other things to take a break! I’m going to teach a shoulder girdle class here at the end of the month (online) — you might like that.

  10. Good luck on your farm! BTW we call those slugs “banana slugs”. Less exciting than leopard slugs, but more fitting, perhaps. They will eat all your lettuces and kale and things if you don’t prevent them, though. Eggshell barriers work pretty well, and constant weeding so they don’t have nice places to hide during the day.

  11. Seeing as you look so great, could you next do a post on postpartum exercises for getting the belly back in shape? Pretty please?

    1. Flattery! I like it. I don’t do anything beyond what you see here — I walk everywhere and do all of my alignment exercises. When the body is in alignment and when you use it in a whole-body symmetrical day, your metabolism goes through the roof! No need for any additional contrived exercises…

  12. Hit the monkey bars, and it was sad. Have trouble believing that me hanging their and going “Uhnnnn” imperceptibly trying to lift myself is causing a good benefit to my body (besides causing major calouses on my hands). Would any weight-bearing activity that fully extends the bicep be of help when a pull-up seems light years away?

    Don’t get too friendly with the slugs. 🙂

    1. RE: hard to believe
      katy: Believe it.

      Other weight bearing options include handstand, which can cause issues when shoulders aren’t open. Don’t even worry about the pull up now, just allow that tissue to lengthen. It’s yummy. And, callouses have greater circulation than other parts of skin — we should be using our hands to do many things beyond type 🙂 When you’re old and can still open jars you’ll think of me (maybe.)

      1. OK! I will make friends with the pull-up bar somehow. I should have known you would come back with a way callouses are good for you!

  13. I put a chin up bar in my house about 2 weeks ago and I hang once to twice a day eveyday and it has help with my shoulders and my wrists quite a bit, it’s only taken me 2 years to do it but at least I finally did.

    Thanks Katy for all the adivse that you have to say over and over again but it does sink in.

    Have fun on the farm!

    Brenda C

  14. So I’m 6 1/2 months pregnant… Can I hang from monkey bars, too? Would love to get myself “ready” for some marathod baby holding 🙂

  15. Ugh, I tend to push out my hip and let my kids rest on that and I KNOW that’s wrong. Time to start hanging out in the garage (DH has a chip up bar there). Being able to do ONE pullup/chip up is a life goal…maybe I should be doing something to REACH that goal 😉 Good luck on the farm! Please post pictures of your progress somewhere for interested followers!

    1. …and I apparently want to consistently type “chip” instead of “chin”. Come to think of it, I am feeling a little snackish 😉

  16. Just wondering what your take on baby wearing with wraps and structured carriers like a Mei tai is? I am assuming they allow us to “get away” with not being strong enough to support our kid with our muscles, but it is nice to have my kid on my back while I have both hands free. I’m just wondering how to remain in alignment with this center of mass shift. I will keep looking on the blog to see if you have covered this already, but thought I’d go ahead and ask here. Thanks for the great info!

  17. Love this! Just found your blog and am so pleased that I did. I use my hips/pelvis to support baby who has always ben on the big side (10lb8oz born!!) but will try and correct it going forward. Thanks!

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