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    I was reading this month’s Working Mother magazine, and I spot an article on back aches and back health. This is interesting stuff to an ergonomist, and I was pleased to see such an article in this type of magazine. But the article was pretty much a fluff piece. Here is one quote from the article: “When your baby becomes too heavy, retire the baby backpack or front carrier. You should never carry more than 15 percent of your body weight.”

    Where did that 15% guideline come from? I have seen such guidelines for children but never for adults. If the average weight of a woman is 135 lbs, that 15% is slightly over 20 lbs. 20 pounds is about the weight of the average one-year old. I doubt there are many mothers who can get out of carrying a one-year old!

    The NIOSH lifting guide has a load constant of 51 pounds for a lift under perfect conditions. The Snook tables indicate 34 pound (15 kg) carry of 28 feet once every 30 minutes for 90% of females. I think the Snook tables are closest to reality in this situation. As a mother myself, I have done some long carries of whining or crying children down hiking trails, over sandy beaches, up icy driveways. You name it. A mother doesn’t have the luxury of saying “Sorry child, you exceed Snook table limits”.

    I guess I should write a letter to the editors of Working Mother?


    Maine, USA



    I recall hearing a 20% guideline for children and backpacks, and I also do not know where that guideline originated from. As a fellow mother (and a pregnant one at that!) I still have to tote around my 30 lb. child from time to time. I can see the point of retiring the carrier earlier on, but maybe the article should have talked about proper lifting and carrying techniques for handling a toddler sized child, rather than just eliminating lifting altogether!

    One of the most useful publications I have read on the topic was “Caring for your Baby and your Back” which was written by 2 physical therapists. I wish I had the author’s names but I lended this out and do not have it in my possession. There are pictures of do’s and don’t for proper posture and body mechanics when changing diapers, putting a stroller in the car, carrying an infant in his/her carrier, lifting a child in and out of a crib, feeding a child in a highchair, even how to posture yourself when reading to your child. Every mom should get that publication in the hospital to help prevent future back pain from all of the physical activity required as a parent.

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