How to Pick up Your Kids to Save Your Back and Avoid Injury

As moms, we’re always bending to pick up our kids. Whether it’s lifting an infant out of a crib or picking up a toddler, our backs are feeling it by the end of the day after all that lifting. And that’s just one day. Now think of the cumulative effect of all those years of caring for and lifting your kids. It can really take a toll. 

So what is the right way to be lifting our kids? Good question. We tapped an ergonomics specialist to give us the scoop on how to lift to avoid injury. Crystal Nelson founded Fargo Ergonomics and its online sister company, Alter Ergo, which provides free ergonomics assessments. She came on our latest podcast episode to share some insights on how we should be bending and lifting to stay injury-free. 

Practice good lifting techniques for any lift

She says that you should always practice the same good lifting techniques, whether you’re lifting a lightweight toy or a heavier toddler. You’ve heard it before, but it’s true no matter what you’re lifting: lift with your legs, never with your back. Lifting with your back would look like bending over at your waist to pick something up and then using your low back and core to pull yourself upright rather than engaging your legs. This puts a lot of stress on those lower back muscles, which can cause muscle strain or even a disc injury. And if you’ve ever been laid up with a back injury, you know how painful and hard to move around it can be. Not fun when you have a family to tend to.

Lift with your legs

So what does the ideal lift look like? “The goal is to squat with your back upright without bending forward at your hips, so your knees and your legs do a lot of the work. Once you squat down into position, grab the toy or your child and bring them close to your body so you don't have to keep your arms extended as you stand. This keeps the weight close to your body and makes it much easier to stand without straining your muscles. Once you're at that point where you're ready to lift, keep breathing, don't hold your breath, and then stand using your legs and try not to lean forward. As you stand, remember to keep your arms close to your body.”

Bend at the hips

When you’re picking your baby up out of the crib or laying them on the changing table, the key is to keep your child close to your chest and the center of your body. Keep your back straight and your head up. Bend at your hips instead of at your back to avoid stressing the muscles of your lower back. Straighten your hips so you are upright, and then extend your knees to return to a full stand. To return your child to the crib, use the same technique while keeping your baby close to you.

By adopting these methods of lifting and moving with your child, you can safely lift and carry your child while avoiding many common new-parent back strains and pains. For more information on ergonomics, you can visit Crystal at