Making it to the corner shop can be challenge enough when you’ve got a newborn in tow – let alone making it to a class at a scheduled time where you’ll be expected to make polite conversation and be fully dressed.
But classes offer a wonderful opportunity for you to bond with your little one, as well as being a great way for your baby to socialise and learn new developmental skills.
And while the idea might seem daunting at first, getting out of the house and socialising with other mums could ultimately save your sanity, and be the catalyst for some long-lasting friendships.
Here are five of the most stimulating and fun classes...
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The first thing a midwife does when delivering a healthy baby is to ensure she has skin-on-skin contact with her mother. And when it comes to comforting and calming an unsettled baby, nothing compares to mum’s instinctive loving touch.
Based on this healing power of touch, baby massage offers a whole host of benefits, from helping your baby to feel secure, loved and reducing emotional distress to developing body awareness and coordination. Research
has also shown that gentle massage can promote sleep and offer relief from wind, constipation and colic.
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Yoga might seem like the last thing you’d want to do after giving birth (the triangle pose doesn’t bear thinking about!). But mother & baby yoga classes can be a great way for new mums to gently restore physical health and wellbeing, at the same time as bonding with their baby.
“The body undergoes huge change during pregnancy and childbirth,” says Cheryl MacDonald, founder of Yogabellies
. “Yoga for mum and baby focuses on mum’s three main areas of concern: the back, the abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor. You will also learn breath awareness and relaxation techniques, which can help to increase energy levels and allow you to relax while with baby.”
Meanwhile, gentle yoga poses for your little one offer similar benefits to baby massage, including body awareness and the promotion of sleep, as well as soothing, calming and aiding digestion.
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Most mother-and-baby music classes offer a fun and lively mix of singing songs and nursery rhymes with all the actions, and playing simple musical instruments, usually accompanied by an unflinchingly smiley ukulele-playing teacher.
Research suggests that exposing babies as young as nine months old to music can improve their ability to process both music and speech rhythms
. But beyond that, most music classes offer a multi-sensory experience, that can help with everything from eye-tracking, balance and exercise (dancing and movement) to language development (singing) and hand-eye coordination and motor development (shaking instruments).
(WARNING: Never attend this activity with a hangover!)
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Introducing your baby to the water while they’re very young will help to build their confidence and prevent a fear of water further down the line. As much of their body will be supported by the water, the main focus will be on balance. Using toys in the water will also help with their coordination and motor skills. A study by the Norwegian University of Science & Technology found that babies who swim have better balance and can grasp objects more easily
Swimming is also a great all-over body workout that will help to strengthen your baby’s muscles – and the sooner you introduce them to the water, the sooner they will learn to swim. Plus, have you seen how cute babies look when they swim underwater?
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If you’ve ever been at your wit’s end trying to figure out why your baby’s crying, baby signing could be the class for you. A form of pre-verbal communication, baby signing enables babies to express how they’re feeling and what they want using simple hand gestures.
As they learn to control their arm and hand muscles long before they can speak, this bridges the communication gap. For baby, this means less frustration at not being able to express their needs. For you, it means potentially understanding more quickly why your little one is distressed and what they want.
They will learn simple words like “milk”, “more”, “eat” and “done” alongside lots of singing and fun games.