I saw a photograph on social media last night that made me feel quite sad. It was a baby being massaged whilst staring at a phone screen during a live streamed online class. I’m not judging because this parent thought they were doing the right thing. But I thought I’d take this opportunity to explain my thoughts on online Baby Massage and Baby Yoga classes.
During baby massage or baby yoga, you and your baby should be interacting with each other and neither one of you should be looking at a phone. One of the keystones of all my classes is the positive interaction between baby and parent and this stems from my International Association of Infant Massage training. I talk about this all the time in my classes – non-verbal communication between parent and child is at the very centre of everything I teach. I read a scary statistic recently that suggested we touch our phones more often than we touch our children. I am not going to add to this by giving you another reason to look at your phone rather than your baby.
In my classes, parents look at their babies – and I look at the parents! I see love. I see bonds strengthen. I see confidence grow. I see worries disappear. Please don’t let a screen disrupt this.
“Touch them with your hands, your eyes and your heart”
Vimala McClure, founder of the International Association of Infant Massage
Now don’t get me wrong, I think screens have so many amazing uses. I’m a mum of three about to embark on self-isolation and I’m under no illusions that I won’t turn to screens from time to time. Shooting zombies on a Lego app and watching people colour-in on YouTube is educational, right? In these times of staying home, our phones are going to be invaluable in keeping us connected, but maybe keep your baby’s screen time to skyping their grandparents rather than watching someone massage a dolly.
Aside from this, babies are supposed to feel relaxed after Baby Massage or Baby Yoga. We adults are beginning to realise the negative impact our screens have on our mental health and the evidence suggests that screen time for babies is just as bad. Imagine having a facial whilst scrolling Facebook, or practising yoga whilst sending a few emails? Have you ever quickly updated your Instagram stories whilst in the bath and then wondered why those lavender oils and candles didn’t help you relax (no, me neither!)? We’ve all experienced the frustration of trying to hold a conversation with someone who is looking at their phone.
I think we are going to need all the oxytocin we can get over the coming weeks and with limited contact with others, all that positive nurturing touch that our children need is coming from us, their parents. Never have these interactions between baby and parent been so important.
Baby Massage and Baby Yoga are not difficult things to learn but if I am teaching you remotely, I can’t tell how you are doing it. I wouldn’t want to show you something on my dolly and just assume that you were completing the right action with your actual real-life baby. I will be sharing some very simple ideas for story massage for older children on my pages so keep your eyes peeled for those (you can watch these on your own and then use them as starting points for story masage with your child).
The point that I am trying to make is this – as much as I am going to miss teaching Baby Massage and Baby Yoga, I shall not be teaching these skills virtually. But don’t panic! I will be doing some ‘classes’ in the virtual world. My plan is to run some Baby Massage-Along sessions via Facebook. This is for those of you who have already completed my courses so already know the skills and I shall simply set the scene and then prompt you to massage your baby following the routine you already know. You won’t have to look at me (I’ll probably be in my pyjamas with unbrushed hair!). We’ll be able to connect and support each other, I’ll lead some relaxation activities and some of the other regular features of my classes. But when it comes to the Baby Massage or the Baby Yoga, you’re on your own. Just you and your baby. Exactly as it ought to be.
And now that you’ve finished reading this, pop down your phone, look at your baby and ask them if they’d like a massage or to practice some baby yoga – or even just a great big cuddle!