Your baby may be giving you “mummy thumb”!

That sharp pain in your thumb and wrist may be due to a medical condition known as “mummy thumb”!


You wrap your fingers, thumbs pointed upwards, under your baby’s back, in order to lift your baby. As you pull him up towards you, you feel a sharp, shooting pain in your wrists and thumbs.

Joanne Lee, 32, had this exact experience when she became mum to Noel, 16 months. “Just weeks after he was born, I was already feeling the pain. There was a constant pain in my wrist, especially when I breastfed him in the cradle position,” she recalls. “Not only is it painful, it actually made me resent having to pick him constantly up, which made those early months very emotionally and physically difficult.”

De Quervain’s (wrist) tendonitis, or mummy thumb, affects some 50 per cent of new mothers, says hand surgeon Dr Jonathan Lee

By the way, this condition can afflict both mummies and daddies, and even grandparents and other primary caregivers. Activities involving repetitive hand or wrist movements, such as gardening, knitting, playing a musical instrument or using a smartphone, can give rise to it.

“Mummy thumb” affects some 50 per cent of new mothers.

What is the cause?
You use two major tendons in your wrist and lower thumb when you grip, grasp, clench, pinch or wring anything in your hand, Dr Lee explains. These tendons run side by side from your forearm through the thumb side of your wrist. They normally glide smoothly through the small tunnel that connects them to the base of the thumb. “In De Quervain’s tendonitis, the gliding sheath becomes inflamed, restricting the movement, causing swelling and pain,” says Dr Lee.

Both mummy thumb and carpal tunnel syndrome are related to an increase in repetitive stresses related to childcare activities like carrying baby. But carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the compression of the median nerve at the wrist from tendon inflammation, while mummy thumb is cause by the constriction of the tendons as they pass through the tunnel at the wrist.

New mums get “mummy thumb” because they use an improper technique to lift their babies, which strains the thumb and tendons. Says Dr Lee, “The repetitive L-shaped position of the thumb and index finger while lifting, or using the L-shaped thumb and finger position to cradle a baby’s head can cause pain and inflammation.”

How do you ease the condition? Click on!