yoga with baby
Fitness

Yoga with baby

You don’t have to wait until your baby takes a nap to enjoy a yoga session – you can bring her along too, allowing you to both unwind and keep fit. Yoga instructor Paula Flood extols the benefits of getting zen for some yoga with baby.

Practicing yoga with your baby is a lovely way to bond – even better, you’re also toning your entire body as she develops motor skills. Mum and baby yoga classes can offer a haven of support and friendship to new mothers at this time. The sessions are a mix of strengthening exercises for the mums, gentle body strokes and yoga moves adapted for baby, as well as singing, rhymes and relaxation.

Strong together Yoga exercises can help mums to get back in shape by strengthening the core, pelvic floor and back muscles. This also alleviates common postnatal problems such as back ache, bladder weakness and lack of abdominal tone. Shoulder and arm movements help to open the chest and relieve the aches associated with holding and feeding baby for extended periods. Breathing and relaxation techniques can help you to cope with less sleep and low energy.

Yoga and babies

Yoga moves for babies help to stretch out little bodies that have been curled up for nine months. The digestive and nervous systems are stimulated as babies respond to the combination of movement and touch together. Gentle limb stretches, stroking and tummy time help to build muscular strength in baby’s neck, chest and shoulders.

This physical activity helps to develop pathways between the brain and the body that will support posture and balance. Mini-twist yoga movements can help to relieve wind and digestive problems. Baby yoga also promotes more and better sleep and can help babies to be more settled, with less extreme ups and downs. Aside from the physical benefits, mums learn to relax with baby through songs, rhymes and guided relaxation. This fun and loving interaction improves the parent-child bond and promotes healthy brain development at this crucial time. Joint relaxation is mutually beneficial for mum and baby, enhancing non-verbal communication and helping baby to feel secure.

Go with the flow

Classes, like the first months of parenthood, are unpredictable. Interruptions can be frequent as mums find themselves nursing, bottle-feeding or nappy-changing as required. At these times, yoga reminds us of one of the most valuable lessons of parenthood: the lesson of surrender, letting go of expectations and being in the moment. As mums learn to go with the flow, they have the opportunity to completely ‘be’ with their babies, attuned to their needs as they arise.

Meet other mums

Mum and baby classes can be a great place to meet other mums in the area. This social connection is particularly helpful to first-time mums and to those who may not live close to where they grew up. Classes bring together a nurturing community of women going through the same experiences, offering each other support and friendship when it is most needed. These friendships often endure as babies grow into children.

What to expect

Mums place a yoga blanket, usually covered with a blanket from home, at the top of their yoga mat. Classes may begin with a vocalisation of the syllables A, U and M which make up the ancient yoga mantra, ‘Om’. These sounds create a calm and healing vibration in the room. This soothes both mothers and babies and sets the tone for the rest of the class. Then mums will be guided to gently stroke baby’s head, arms, legs and tummy, accompanied by a song or rhyme.

This may be followed by some pelvic floor exercises for mums, which can be done with or without baby in arms. In an ideal world, babies will then lie on the blanket happily while mums are guided through some yoga postures in all fours, standing and lying. Babies are often included in the lifting and stretching postures. If your baby needs special attention, you are totally free to feed her, rock her, change her nappy, or walk her around the room.

Some babies delight in the new sights and stimulation of the class and are perfectly content to look around and take it all in. Others may be overwhelmed at first and cry a little but eventually get used to it, so don’t give up if the first class doesn’t go well.

When to start

If you have had a normal delivery, you can start six weeks after the birth. If your baby was delivered by caesarean section, it is best to wait until eight weeks after the birth. It is important to ease yourself back into exercise, listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. If you have any doubts, check with your doctor or community midwife. Classes accommodate babies aged six weeks to crawling.

Yoga baby benefits

It has been proven that babies who receive nurturing touch through holding, massage and other forms of loving physical contact gain weight faster, are calmer and have better intellectual and motor development. Mum and baby yoga classes offer you the opportunity to spend this quality time with your baby and help you to strike the balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of your baby. Connecting with other mums can also prove invaluable at this time of great joy and upheaval!

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ASK JESSICA

Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.

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Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

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Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.