Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Back Carrying: The French are Right (and Tight)

The pelvic floor muscles of a new mum benefit of a particular attention in France. After each birth, a mother is offered 10 sessions of physiotherapy sessions to tone her pelvic floor muscles (périnée). The physio sessions are of course paid for by the French health system.

In Britain, people may be surprised, even amused hearing this. We could think of many health areas to spend money on within the NHS. The pelvic floor of a new mother certainly does not top the list.

Lucy Wadham tries to explain, with a lot of humour, why the perineum seems to be so important in France, in her book "The Secret Story of France".

The question is: What's the impact of babywearing on the pelvic floor, tummy and back muscles of the mother?

Babywearing and Yoga experts in France generally agree that the best way to carry a baby is close, high and on the back. This way of carrying the baby seems to strengthen the tummy and back muscles, while protecting the pelvic floor muscles.

There is a case for the kangaroo carry, as the baby is "suspended" in a pocket, relieving the pressure on the mother's perineum. On the other hand, a less-than-optimal cross carry wrap job can exert a downward pressure on the fragile perineum.

Having said that, the kangaroo carry can be tricky to get right, at the best of times. Many parents will, understandably, find a cross carry easier to learn.

It should still be possible to preserve the pelvic floor muscles, while still carrying the baby on the front. This is best achieved by carrying the baby high and close to the body, and moving on to back carrying as soon as the mother feels confident to do it.

It is time we reclaimed our perineum in the British Isles: let's carry our babies close and high, and as soon as we feel confident on the back!