The birth of your newborn is a beautiful time... until your first trip outside the home. Then begins the mass exodus of baby materials, bags, strollers, car seats, extra clothes, blankets, binkies... the list goes on and on!
Even though your baby weighs less than 10 pounds, the extra baggage can easily weigh 2-3 times that amount, PLUS the baby's weight too! This is one of the many reasons experts are recommending baby carrying (in a sling or baby Bjorn-type device) vs. lugging the baby seat all over the place when going to stores, doctor's appointments and other excursions.
The Burden of Baby's Baggage
It’s not the baby that so weighs down new parents in the weeks after their child is born—a newborn weighs, on average, less than eight pounds. Instead, it’s the bulky diaper bag, the stroller, the spare clothing—all the trappings that modern parents feel obliged to carry. The infant car seat has become part of that baggage.
One of the main reasons that parents buy portable car seats is so they can remove a sleeping infant from the car without waking them. There are certainly times when this is handy, but the strategy can easily backfire. Many parents might remember shopping trips that began with baby asleep in her car seat, but only ten minutes later she was awake and screaming to be held. Often parents end up carrying her and the car seat—separately—for the rest of the trip. Parents comment that it is often simpler to wake her and put her into the sling, where she would frequently fall back to sleep again anyway.
Besides, an infant seat is usually an inefficient way to transport a baby. When placed on the floor of a doctor’s waiting room, it is at the perfect height for being accidentally tripped over or kicked. It’s downright hazardous when placed on a chair or table—something most manufacturers advise against. Outside the car, the seat becomes just one more thing to lug around. Leave it in the back seat and you may find yourself feeling remarkably light and free. (1)
The Physical Strain on Parents
An infant car seat can weigh nearly as much as the newborn inside it. Yet it’s common to see people walking around a shopping mall or grocery store, holding a car seat by the handle, the baby strapped inside. This can be hard on anyone’s back, but new mothers are particularly vulnerable. A woman “maintains [the hormone] Relaxin in her system for a good nine months after birth, and Relaxin makes the joints loose,” says Dr. Jeannie Ohm.
“That’s something you need for birth to be able to open up the whole pelvic opening, but it’s a weakening factor, in a sense, if you’re going to do some heavy lifting.”
Infant seats are designed to be portable, but they are still awkward to carry, according to Ohm. “You have to hold it away from your body so your leg isn’t kicking it, so your whole upper spine is tilted over.” Ohm often sees new mothers with injuries from this kind of lifting, and discourages them from doing it unnecessarily.
If a parent does want to keep her child in the car seat while out on a trip, using a compatible stroller or universal car seat carrier (a stroller frame that accommodates different brands of car seats) is much easier on her back than trying to carry the seat by the handle. (1)
If you can relate to the struggles of new parenthood, or know someone who does, be sure to check out the next article in this series: "Car Seat Struggles + Benefits of Baby Wearing Part 2."
1 -Credit for portions of this post should be given to Catherine McKenzie of the ICPA, and issue #23 of Pathways to Family Wellness.
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Dr. Amanda loves empowering women to reach the life they crave through daily habits, hacks and ideas. She continues to practice in Boulder, CO as a holistic chiropractor and health mentor to ladies of all ages.