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Get on the Ball! Why Every Mama Needs to Own a Balance Ball

Christmas Eve 2008. I was 39 weeks pregnant and feeling pretty wonderful until…

My balance ball deflated!! And it was Christmas Eve which meant there was no chance to buy a new one until the day after Christmas!! Clearly a crisis 😉

Ok, so in the grand scheme of things, the death of my balance ball was not such a crisis. But I was pretty put out. You see, my only real pregnancy complaint was lower back stiffness/soreness that had hit around 31 weeks. I’d discovered that the one thing that made it hurt worse than anything was sitting. But magically, sitting on a balance ball had the opposite effect – it actually loosened things up and melted the soreness away. So, first thing I did on Dec. 26 was to high tail it to the store to grab another ball!

Bouncing on the ball and working with 3 week old Callum.

The balance ball – also known as an exercise ball, stability ball, or birthing ball – is exactly what the name implies: a big ole ball. Gym goers will recognize these cheerfully colored balls as a great way to get a killer ab workout.  Pregnant mamas will find ab work on a balance ball to be a nice alternative to floor exercises that are ruled out after the first trimester.  Birth centers and hospitals are increasingly offering laboring mothers birth balls as a way to encourage baby to drop into an appropriate position for birth and to allow mama to labor in a more comfortable position; sitting on a ball helps open the hips and pelvis allowing baby to descend.   Some companies, having figured out that sitting on a ball is great for one’s back, now offer balance ball chairs for those seeking the benefits of using a ball as a desk chair, but who are worried about rolling away.

You don’t need to spend big bucks to reap the rewards of the balance ball.   Retailers such as Target and Amazon sell balls for around $20.  I’ve always had great luck finding balls at discounters like Marshalls and TJ Maxx for more like $13.  Most balls come with a hand pump for relatively quick inflating.  Balls are sold in different sizes; check the box to make sure you are buying the right size for your height.  And make sure you inflate to the correct size – you should be able to sit comfortably on the ball with your thighs parallel to the floor.

Callum taking a turn on the ball...he had a little help getting up there!

I loved sitting on my ball so much that it became my regular desk chair even after kiddo was born.  I’m sitting on it as I type this now, in fact.  And once again it’s helping bounce away that lower back pain that has decided to creep up on me much earlier in this pregnancy.  While there are lots of exercises that use the ball to tone your core muscles, just sitting on it has a positive impact on your abdominal tone.  It also forces you to have better posture which in turn will encourage baby into that head down position.

Not only will a balance ball help alleviate pregnancy pains and prepare your body for labor, it’s a fabulous tool for soothing a fussy baby.  I spent many an hour wearing kiddo while bouncing and rocking gently on the ball.   Many babies crave gentle movement that reminds them of being in the womb; the combination of a good carrier and a ball gives mama’s (or daddy’s!) arms a break and soothes baby off to dream land.  The ball is also a cure for a baby who likes being worn, but only when mama is in motion (as is the case with many babies).   Our nighttime routine for many months consisted of wrapping Callum, while gently bouncing.

Our ball even found some uses after kiddo outgrew the needing to be bounced phase.  It turns out that it makes a pretty good push toy for a beginning walker.  And a tempting seat for daredevil toddlers…or a fun thing to push down the stairs 😉

I can confidently say that my balance ball has been hands down one of the best investments I made during my pregnancy.  Who knew that a big $13 ball would be so handy??

Oh, one more thing, make sure to buy a back up!!

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Published in Babywearing Health pregnancy