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Baby Care is Weight Training, Experts Say

January 20, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Leslie Bascom didn’t realize how her upper body weight training was affecting her until she was five months along.

The 39-year-old homemaker and mother - ″domestic goddess, please″ - lifts a 19-pound weight named Lucy. ″She’s active and frisky,″ says Bascom. ″And she’s enjoyed being in Mother’s arms since Day One.″

However, what Lucy enjoys has given Mommy pain. Bascom has developed what amounts to an athletic injury from constantly carrying the baby.

In her case, it’s pain and numbness in the wrist. In others, experts say, pains may strike the arms, neck, back and or legs.

″My wrist problems really didn’t surface until she was over 15 pounds,″ Bascom recalls. ″She couldn’t sit up, so I was doing a lot of lifting her into and out of various things, and from one activity to the next.″

Motherhood is not easy, but Bascom hadn’t expected this. ″I’m a swimmer, and you’d think that would be a good thing to do - but I haven’t had the chance to swim since she was born,″ she says. ″You just sit around on your duff for six months, nursing.″

Problems such as Bascom’s are not uncommon, says fitness expert Femmy DeLyser of Santa Monica, Calif. She says it often strikes women who don’t do a lot of manual labor. Bascom is on maternity leave from The Associated Press, where she has been a radio anchor and writer.

Older mothers are more at risk, because they recover more slowly from the constant stress of child-carrying, says DeLyser, director of the Pregnancy, Birth and Recovery Program at Jane Fonda’s Workout Fitness Center in Beverly Hills.

And, she says, modern conveniences can make the arm and wrist muscles worse off. ″When people haven’t used their hands in the old-fashioned way - washing clothes by hand and wringing them - the muscles are very weak,″ she says. ″All of a sudden, holding the baby in a certain position - those muscles will get inflamed.″

She advises women to train for baby-carrying like it’s a sport - for instance, lifting hand weights for upper body conditioning. With your arms straight, you can move the weights up in front of you, and out to your sides - in both cases, until your arms are extended parallel to the floor. To strengthen your wrists, you could move the weights by curling your wrists.

DeLyser also advises flexibility and posture work. Many new mothers, she says, continue unconsciously to be hunched over, as they were while they were pregnant.

If you feel pain, DeLyser advises you to see a doctor or a physical therapist.

Physical therapist Teresa Whitney, who works in Springfield, Va., says patients need to work on their body mechanics. She advises them to lie flat on their backs and try to push their backs down on the floor, then work on knee and leg raises.

She and DeLyser says mothers can reduce the pain by moving the baby from side to side, rather than carrying the kid in the same arm all the time. She also says the problems tend to go away as the child gets older.

And, Whitney says, fathers can show some support for mothers as the mothers keep the child supported - dads, she says, often don’t appreciate how hard moms have to work.

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