Why baby massage and yoga is so good for you and your baby
As a mummy to be or a new mum you may have heard people talking about baby massage and yoga. They are both on most new mums’ radars as highly beneficial activities to attend. Baby yoga and baby massage share similar origins. Both have been used in many different cultures for hundreds of years. The practice of” baby massage” or “baby yoga” are labels we have used to describe practices which to some societies are simply a way of life and key to parental styles and behaviour. Both baby massage and yoga are forms of parental/child activity which have evolved to meet the basic needs of the parent and child after birth and beyond.
Looking at the behaviour of mammals after birth, the mother mammal’s intuitive response to her young after birth is to lick, touch and stimulate skin. This is important for a wide range of reasons such as the stimulation of all the baby’s body systems, recognition of maternal/infant scent, and regulation of hormone levels in the body. Baby massage and yoga has developed in response to the natural and instinctual urges of a parent. When a baby cries we instinctively want to pick it up and cuddle it. This touch is vital to send a message of security, attachment and belonging to the infant. The existence of “maramus” at the beginning of the C19th where babies literally wasted away due to lack of touch despite food, water and shelter shows how necessary touch and emotional security is for the growing child. The physiology benefits of massage and yoga also make it an ideal way to tend to the physical difficulties of babies.
Baby yoga can be seen to have evolved in a similar way. Mammals tend to carry their young. In more tribal societies babies are not left in cradles or cribs whilst the parents work. They are carried on their parent’s backs giving them many advantages over the static child. Babies carried by their parent’s benefit from the calming effect of gentle movements. These movements help to recreate the secure environment of the womb. Being in an upright position can also aid digestion and elimination of wind opposed to being laid down after a feed. By being carried will also be comforted by the rhythm of the parent’s movement and its muscles will strengthen as it attempts to cling on to its parent. The closeness with the parent will also help to strengthen the bond between parent and child as they will not be separated for periods of time and the baby will be aware of the parent’s physical presence.
In baby yoga many of the swings and holds we use are based on these principles and the idea of responding to baby’s basic needs through physical movements. Playful exercises used by parents can have positive physiology effects on the baby. Lifting the knees to the chest as we do in yoga may appear to be a fun game but it has the ability to help release wind from a baby and soothe him. Babies enjoy being handled and they benefit from spending time with their parents and establishing a strong bond.
Western parents often have lives and cultural practices which differ to those in a more tribal society. They often have less physical contact with their babies. There is generally less co sleeping and mothers may bottle feed rather than breast feed. By practicing baby massage and baby yoga parents can gain the benefits of more physically involved parenting. It also allows parents to practice more instinctual parenting practices, responding to their babies needs and helping to develop the bond between them. By offering baby yoga and baby massage classes we invite parents to consider different styles of parental practices with their children as well as gaining the physical benefits.
The relationship between baby yoga & baby massage
Both baby yoga and baby massage encourage early interaction for parent and baby. Maria Montessori talked about the windows of developmental opportunity as “the sensitive periods” During these periods the infant can move from the unconscious mind to developing more complex thinking. Baby Massage and Yoga can encourage this process. Both synchronise the parents’ attention towards the baby by providing special and relaxed time together in a non competitive and non threatening environment.
Symmetry between the parental and babies needs are encouraged as the parent empathises with the baby. The parent can also feel needed and loved as a parent as the baby responds. Through baby massage and yoga the parent can become better aware of the babies positive and negative cues. When babies are enjoying the class positive cues such as smiling, relaxed body language, relaxed limbs, vocalisation can be observed. Of course sometimes the parent may experience negative cues in the class such as crying or closed body language such as turning away and losing eye contact. It is inevitable that some negative cues may be observed in a class but the parent should not worry about this. The importance lies in recognition of these cues and the parent’s response to them.
The fact that the classes are fun and varied also helps with parent/child interaction When the parent/child are both happy positive bond reinforcing cues are given out which can help to build and strength the relationship. The play aspects of the class encourages the parent and baby to be relaxed in each others company and investigate different models of play together. The respect afforded to the baby as a result of the parent observing their baby’s cues in class can also help establish the baby’s autonomy as the baby realises that he can control the parent/child interaction
It also enables parent’s journey into more intuitive parenting to continue. The practice of baby yoga is built on the same principles as baby massage and therefore it allows parents to learn more about different techniques for settling and soothing baby as they grow and progress. Touch and attachment is as important in baby yoga as it is in baby massage although the focus is in different ways.
To find out more about classes or to become a teacher with us, visit www.blossomandberry.com