When Tammy Crosby starts singing “Hello, everybody, and how are you,” the song from their mom-baby swim program, 4½-month-old George starts smiling like crazy. “He thinks he’s going swimming!” says his mom.
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Crosby has been taking George to the program since he was three months old. “The lessons are in a big, heated pool designed for rehab patients. It’s 94°F, so it’s great for little babies. They seem to enjoy it.”
Crosby enjoys it too. “It is nice to get out, and it’s lovely to meet other mommies. I’ve found some great friends there, and so has George.”
It can be a long, long day when you’re home alone with a baby, and a regular outing or two can really brighten up the week for both of you.
Taira Lovegrove tried out all kinds of programs in her daughter's first year: Mother Goose (a song and story program), swimming, and a health unit program called Baby Talk. “I was 21 when I had my daughter, so most of my friends were in a different stage of life,” says Lovegrove. “It was so nice to make some new friends who were on the same path. I became good friends with one mom, and now I babysit her son.”
For Lisa Schell, mom and baby yoga has been the activity of choice. “I was skeptical at first, not ever having done yoga before. I wasn’t sure about how my baby would react.” That was five months ago, and Schell and nine-month-old Benjamin are still going. In fact, Schell says she’s hooked. “I’ll continue to be a yoga mom for a very long time!”
Mary Anna Avery, a parent educator at the Childreach Centre in London, Ont., thinks that mom-baby programs are an important way to build support for new moms, especially those who may be isolated from their extended family and friends. “Most new moms welcome the opportunity to talk about their experiences in their new role,” she says. “Coming out to programs gives them an opportunity to network and gain support and ideas. There’s a special connection for moms who are experiencing similar challenges, like sleep deprivation.”
And sometimes, a connection is made that provides support and friendship well beyond the duration of the program. “We regularly ask participants’ permission to copy the group’s email and telephone numbers so they have a means of getting in contact after the workshops are completed,” says Avery. “I have spoken with some parents who have continued to meet with moms they met in the Just Beginning groups five and seven years after the baby was born.”
The social contact is good for the babies too, says Lovegrove. “They watch what the other babies are doing and learn from each other.”
For Crosby, the best payoff has been the fun she and George have shared at the pool. “George is loving it. And I love the closeness it brings and the trust it builds.”
Mom-baby programs are springing up all over, but you could pore over your phone book for a long time without finding the parent-child or family resource centre in your community (unless the name starts with the name of your city—always worth checking!). If you know of a centre, go and ask what’s available. You might find a gold mine of great things to do, from courses to drop-in playtimes to a toy-lending library.
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Other great places to start looking for programs:
• Public health unit: may actually offer programs and be able to refer you to other community resources
• YM/YWCA and other fitness/community centres
• The library: may offer a Mother Goose or storytime program for older babies, or a listing of community resources or programs for parents. Check the bulletin board too!
• Yellow Pages under “yoga”
• Ontario Early Years centres
If your schedule makes it hard to commit to a regular time, you can still set up some fun activities that also provide you with a little adult company:
• Check out a drop-in play program at a family resource centre. Spread out your baby’s blanket, grab some toys and strike up a conversation with the mom next to you.
• If you have a warm pool nearby, do a mom-baby swim on your own or with a couple of friends.
• Start your own playgroup. All you need are a couple of friends willing to share hosting duties.
• Walking with baby in the stroller or front pack is great exercise, but more fun when there’s someone to talk to along the way. Would a neighbour with a baby like to be your strolling buddy? The only way to find out is to ask!
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