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A Pelvic Floor Therapist Shares Tips for Safely Lifting Your Toddler After Birth

mom holding her toddler and newborn baby in a chair

Knowing when and how to lift your toddler after giving birth can feel complicated and confusing. Learning how to safely lift your toddler is critical to your postpartum healing.

During delivery, your abdomen is cut, or your pelvic floor stretches to make room for the baby’s exit. It’s no wonder your muscles feel so weak after giving birth.

It can take time for them to “find their way back home” and reconnect to your brain. They’ve been displaced for quite some time, and they don’t just snap back into place (no matter how much society likes to tell us they should).

With this in mind, it’s essential to learn how – and when – to safely lift your toddler (or anything heavy, really) after giving birth.

mom holding her toddler and newborn baby in a chair

Can I carry a toddler after giving birth?

Editor’s Note: Please consult your doctor for lifting guidelines with your birth in mind. We share a general timeline and lifting recommendations below.

Initially, when going home to a toddler, it’s best not to lift them as much as is reasonable. Of course, every scenario looks different, depending on how you gave birth (vaginally or via a c-section).

Keep in mind, this timeline assumes that you are properly lifting your toddler using the directions and suggestions shared later in this article.

If you had a vaginal birth with little complications, you could lift your toddler within one to two weeks after delivery.

With a cesarean or c-section birth, you must wait six weeks to lift your toddler or anything heavier than ten pounds. This is critical to your recovery.

While these lifting restrictions may not always be possible, following them as closely as possible (especially for those with incisions) is essential.

For the times your child wants to be held, and needs some attention, try to come up with other options, such as:

  • Ask them to sit on the couch next to you to talk about their day.
  • Have them cuddle with you in bed for some extra one-on-one time. 
  • Sit on the floor with them to play or read a book.

While many toddlers ask you to pick them up when they crave some one-on-one time, they often want attention and hands-on affection, which you can accomplish through the abovementioned ideas.

mom carrying her toddler girl

What happens if you lift something heavy too soon after giving birth?

The muscles that make up your “core” undergo a big adjustment during pregnancy and delivery. As your belly grows, these muscles stretch to give the baby room.

It can take some time for your muscles to reconnect and have enough strength to lift properly, especially if they’ve been cut for a cesarean birth.

According to one article, “heavy lifting can create intra-abdominal pressure. After birth, the pelvic floor is weak (which is why strengthening it after pregnancy is so important!). This pressure and weakened pelvic floor can lead to the drop and protrusion of organs, a serious medical condition.”

With a cesarean birth, lifting too heavy too soon can cause your incision (either external or internal) to open, rupture, or cause other serious medical issues.

Read next: Tips for Safely Returning to Exercise After Birth

mom hugging her toddler in the kitchen

How to safely lift a toddler after giving birth in six steps

For the times that you do need to lift or carry your child, there are some essential steps to follow to protect your body until you’re stronger:

1. Connect to your core with breath

Diaphragmatic breathing is one of the first things I tell patients to work on postpartum.

How does this help us lift safely? Our breath is the best way to connect to our core. You can start as soon as the day after delivery, even before you head home from the hospital.

Here’s how to do it:

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Breathe into your lower rib cage, the whole way around. Imagine you have a small umbrella under your rib cage.

As you breathe, the umbrella opens, opening your rib cage. And then, as you exhale, the umbrella closes fully. Your belly should also expand and get big as you inhale and then narrow as you exhale.

Practice these breaths a few times.

Now, as you exhale, draw your belly, from the pubic bone to the sternum, gently together to help the breath leave your body. Inhale and let those muscles go. Do this daily for several minutes to connect your core to your brain again.

Then when you need those muscles to lift, they will be more likely to engage. 

2. Wear (gentle) compression

Right after you first deliver, your abdominal muscles are still stretched. Wearing gentle compression can help draw the belly in and support you.

See Also
mom practicing yoga nidra while postpartum

I don’t recommend tight abdominal binders because this can cause too much pressure on our pelvic floor. I like compression underwear or gentle belly bands for extra support, especially if you have to move and lift things early on.

You want to think of it like a soft “hug” to your middle, not a squeeze. 

3. Exhale on exertion

Blow out when you pick up your child (or anything). It’s best to breathe into your diaphragm as you bend down and exhale as you bring your child up.

This allows your core to help protect your body and helps to reduce pressure and stress on your pelvic floor. Be sure not to hold your breath or bear down as you lift. 

4. Bend knees and butt back

When you reach for your child, be sure to widen your stance, bend your knees and let your butt drop back (hinging at your hips). This will place less stress on your spine and allow your legs to share the load as you stand back up.

Katie bayer standing in a squatting position and holding a pillow in front of her demonstrating correct posture.

5. Get close to your child

Be sure to get your toddler right in front of you, and get as close to them as possible before you reach down to lift.

The farther they are from you, the more they weigh on your body.

You also want to avoid twisting as you lift, so the more centered they are to your body, the better. Toddlers can be moving targets, making this complex, so do your best. 

6. Keep hips and knees bent and feet grounded

As you hold your child, don’t fully straighten your hips and knees, hinging backward to hold the weight. Maintain a slight squat position to use your legs to continue to help as you hold or carry your child. 

Katie bayer standing holding pillow with bent knees and hips for correct posture

More advice on safely lifting your toddler after giving birth

Generally, the less time you spend picking up and holding your toddler, the better.

The times that you need to, use your breath to activate your core and share the load throughout your body to reduce strain to one area.

Cuddle times with your little one may also help reduce the constant need for you to “pick me up!”

Explain to your toddler that your body is healing and you need time before lifting them again. The fourth trimester is a time for rest and recovery, so be patient with yourself and your body. You’ve got this!

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