Babies. There’s so much build-up to their arrival: nine months of pregnancy, the baby shower, the nursery, the baby-moon, the overflow of excitement, the nerves, the excruciating labor. At the end of it all, there’s a baby – this tiny crying, cooing, peeing, pooping, milk-drinking, sleeping blob of cute. After that nine-month stretch of half bliss/half torture, a lot of parents are left scratching their heads, thinking “okay…now what?” That’s where Mommy & Me classes might come in.
You know what they say: babies don’t come with instruction manuals. At a Mommy & Me class, parents can learn ways to enhance their child’s development while deepening their bond and also having a great time. Offering a myriad of benefits for both mother and child, Mommy & Me can be a wonderful, unforgettable experience.
When deciding whether you want to enroll in a class, there are few questions you should ask yourself first:
What are the benefits of taking a Mommy & Me class?
Socialization – It’s not exactly easy to make new friends when your social calendar is as empty as your wallet after a trip to Babies ‘R’ Us. Mommy & Me classes are a fantastic way to meet other moms and possibly form lasting friendships. Motherhood bonds women in ways that nothing else can. It is also a great place for baby to socialize and interact with other little ones.
Gets you out of the house – Sometimes mom just needs a good excuse to get out of the house (no, monthly trips to the pediatrician don’t count). There’s no quicker way to go a little stir crazy than bunkering down at home with a toddler or infant 24/7. Attending a class can help to break up the monotony of the day, while keeping everyone happily busy for an hour or two.
Combats postpartum depression – According to the American Psychological Association, up to 16 percent of new moms experience PPD. Getting out of the house, socializing, and feeling productive are good ways to combat the isolated feelings associated with PPD. You might even be able to locate a nearby Mommy & Me-style support or therapy group specifically created for women suffering from PPD.
Strengthens overall development – For babies, the benefits of a Mommy & Me class are virtually endless: it can increase baby’s motor skills and encourage physical development through play; it can enhance social awareness through interaction with other children; it stimulates the senses; it promotes cognitive development through engaging sights, sounds, and activities; and it can even boost self-confidence and foster an early sense of independence.
Promotes bonding – You and your little one are already inseparable, so how much more bonding do you need? Just because your daily routine consists of alternating between feeding, burping, changing, bathing, and rocking your baby doesn’t necessarily mean you are connecting during those moments. A Mommy & Me class can be a special time when the distractions of your everyday life are put aside and you are free to focus solely on your connection.
Offers good ideas for home activities – Apart from watching baby sleep, many parents aren’t sure what else to do with this new person taking up residence in their life. Mommy & Me class can offer some very helpful ideas for when you want to do something productive with your child, but you just don’t know what.
What kinds of Mommy & Me classes are available?
No two Mommy & Me classes are created alike. Since mommy’s interests can vary, so can the way she chooses to bond with baby. Some classes are good for newborns and infants, while other classes might be better suited for toddlers. For Staten Island moms, in particular, there are so many classes from which to choose.
Arguably the most popular kind of Mommy & Me class is a gym class, where babies will climb, jump, and crawl to their hearts’ content (with a little help from mom, of course).
Active moms might be interested in signing up for a Mommy & Me fitness class, which feature interactive exercises that will have both mother and child working out together. Stroller-fitness classes enable mom to easily work on her pre-baby body with her little one simply along for the ride! Zumba, dance, and swim classes are other good options for the physically active mom and baby duo.
Some Mommy & Me classes are less active but more likely to enhance baby’s cognitive development. Babies are naturally stimulated by musical sounds, so a music class can be lively and fun. Art classes are a good outlet for mother and child to explore their creativity together. In a baby sign language class, infants are taught how to express themselves even before speech has developed.
Other classes are lower energy, with a focus on bonding through relaxation. Infant massage or baby yoga are perfect for this type of experience.
Are Mommy & Me Classes for Everyone?
A friend recently mentioned to a group of her fellow mommy friends that she’d never taken her children to a Mommy & Me class. Her statement was met with gasps of shock, as though she’d just blurted out that she feeds her family candy every night for dinner. “We can’t really afford any additional expenses,” she rushed to explain. Awkward silence followed. “Look, I’m a Stay-At-Home-Mom,” she continued. “If anything, I need a little less time with my kids, not more!” The group erupted into laughter and all was seemingly forgiven.
As wonderful as these classes can be for both mom and baby, it’s okay to admit that they might not be for you. Perhaps your circle of mommy friends is already substantial enough and you don’t feel the need to make new friends and set up more play dates. Perhaps you find yourself insecure or uncomfortable around new people and will be too distracted to really enjoy the time with your baby.
Another friend admitted she would love to bring her baby to a class, but her demanding work schedule makes it difficult to do so. If the child is with a grandparent, nanny, or other family member throughout the week, most (if not all) classes will welcome the child and caretaker with open arms. It’s not uncommon to find grandmothers and even grandfathers at a Mommy & Me class.
Money is no object, either. While many Mommy & Me classes are affordable, some parents simply don’t have any room in their budget at all. If you want to take a class but don’t have the available funds to do so, try your local library. All Staten Island libraries offer free programs every week. Visit S.I. Parent’s Family Calendar to find a free class near you.
If you still feel that Mommy & Me class isn’t for you, don’t fret. Do you sing songs to your baby at home? Do you dance and play and read books together? Do you go out for fresh air and talk to your child about what you see? All of these activities enhance your child’s overall development and further strengthen your bond. You’re a loving, caring parent, and your baby will thrive no matter what!
Whether you decide to take an organized class together or not, enjoy your precious Mommy & Me time with your baby. It’s the makings of your future nostalgia.
By Jeannine Cintron, a Staten Island mom of two who kind of misses the newborn blob phase.