I didn’t have an easy start to motherhood. (I don’t truly believe that anyone does!) I had feeding issues that lead to post-natal depression, and a deep sense of isolation. I had to really force myself to leave the house alone with baby, and to find reasons to speak to other people. It was hard, but I’m stubborn and, as such, one day woke up and decided that enough was enough. I booked us into baby classes, and things started to get easier. Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t to say that everything was hunky dory with immediate effect. In fact, after our first class at 5 weeks old, I went home and cried, and never returned. I had convinced myself that everyone was judging me for feeding with a bottle, that everyone thought I was getting it all wrong, and that my baby was better off with someone, anyone, else. I also didn’t much like doing the hokey cokey. But that’s something that can’t really be avoided in these circles, I’ve found.
I returned to different classes at 8 weeks, and discovered some important truths: No-one knows what they’re doing with a newborn* baby. No-one really cares what you’re doing with your child, because they’re too concerned with managing their own. No-one gives a fig about the hole in your sock. And, as I’ve said, doing dances to childhood songs is unavoidable. Knowing all of this was a very important step in my recovery from PND, and from the shock of motherhood itself.
(*Or child of any age, really.)
As such, I strongly believe in the power of the baby class. And this is why you should too:
- According to research conducted by channelmum.com, 92% of mums feel lonely, 54% are lonelier as a mum than they were before children, and 80% of mums want more mum friends. Becoming a mum is such a seismic shift, it’s hardly surprising that we find ourselves feeling a bit untethered. Suddenly, we don’t have work mates to chat to every day, we have less in common with friends that don’t have children (even those we’ve known our entire lives) and we can’t drop everything for a last-minute catch up at the pub, as we may have done before. Which is why it’s so important to make mum / ‘people that are as completely bewildered and uncharacteristically sensitive as I am right now’ friends, and a baby class is a great place to start.
- Baby classes give you a reason to leave the house, and help establish a routine. There’s truth in the saying ‘the days are long but the years are short.’ Establishing an activity to centre your day around can really help to break up those days, and makes even the longest of them feel more manageable.
- Baby classes allow for quality time with your baby. As mentioned, the years are short. But while we all know this in our hearts, it can be difficult to quash oft-present feelings of ‘I should be doing the washing/cleaning/meal prep’ when in the house with your baby. Baby classes allow for a scheduled removal from your home environment, giving you a regular and pre-planned block of time to completely focus on one another, strengthening your bond, and allowing you to make memories unmarred by housework based guilt.
- Baby classes allow you to observe different parenting styles. Attachment parenting, free-range parenting, authoritarian parenting… there are so many ways to be a mum these days, and it can be hard to know which style suits you best. Sitting in a room with other mothers is a great way to observe different parenting styles, and to learn which methods may or may not work for your own family.
- And they allow you to learn new skills. Yes, you! If you’re feeling a little mushy in the mind region, try a class that requires you to learn. Baby sign language, for example, is fantastic for a mum brain workout, or you could try baby massage for something a little more hands-on.
- They’re a fantastic place to test run new toys. Children are unpredictable creatures, making them incredibly hard to buy for. You can spend hours researching the best toy on the market, ordering it in their favourite colour, texture, and shape, and still be met with a blank face and an instant relegation to the bottom of the toybox. Baby classes that include toys, then, can save you a lot of hassle. Simply pay attention to the items your child instinctively goes for, and the ones they return to again and again. A true try before you buy experiment, that could save you a lot of time and money.
- They allow your baby to socialise with other babies. OK, so babies don’t actually socialise in the way we socialise (toddlers do, though!) Rather than directly interacting with each other, they’ll engage in what is known as parallel play – in that they’ll play next to each other, but won’t really play together. This doesn’t mean there’s no value in them being together though, as babies can learn from each other. Observing how another baby does something may help them learn to do it themselves – crawling, for example!
- Many baby classes have a focus on sensory play. Read about how sensory play benefits your baby, here.
- And, last but not least, a 2012 study showed that baby music classes have a positive impact on child development. They concluded that ‘one-year-old babies who participate in interactive music classes with their parents smile more, communicate better and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music.’ Which is difficult to argue with, honestly.
Baby classes can be daunting. However, they are worthwhile, and can result in a great support system for both you and your child. Before attending, do some research into what to expect from the class you have chosen, so you feel comfortable with what the session will involve, before getting involved. And don’t forget the golden rule of making mum friends: You are not alone in the way you are feeling. And you are not the only one desperate to discuss your birth. So just say hello. And maybe compliment their baby, too, for a surefire positive response.