Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Baby-Wearing Hula: Movement with your Baby

Picture this: a circle of women, babies worn in various types of slings or carriers on their mothers’ chests, all swaying to the beat of a Hawaiian tune. What am I describing? Baby-wearing hula!

I was fortunate enough to travel to Hawaii to teach baby behavior to staff of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in Hawaii. As my flight took off, I was flipping through the pages of the in-flight magazine and came across an article about baby-wearing hula, a weekly mother-baby class offered at a small hula studio, in the very town I was visiting. In a past post we talked about the benefits of baby-wearing, noting the benefits and risks of using baby slings and reporting on studies showing that wearing your baby improves infant attachment and reduces crying.

Baby-wearing hula is a great example of combining exercise, bonding, soothing and baby-wearing. What I found most interesting about the description of the class was that the instructor was not focused on how many calories the mothers would burn, like so many other fitness classes, but on the babies themselves. The class allowed the babies to direct how much and how fast the class would go. Sounds to me like they are probably paying attention to some baby cues! Slow dancing with your baby is also a great example of repetition to soothe .

There are other mother-baby (or daddy-baby!) classes that may be offered in your area that would have similar effects. Mother-baby yoga classes are quite popular and beneficial to both parent and baby. There are even some exercise videos out there that are made especially for baby-wearing parents. When my daughter was a baby I used to do a really fun baby-wearing video with Latin dance moves. My daughter loved the music and moving with the rhythm.

Multitasking moms will also appreciate that you can combine bonding time with healthy movement. We encourage you to watch your baby’s cues to see when he or she is getting tired or over stimulated in the new environment. Taking a short break may help. You can always return to the activity once your baby is ready to engage again. Experiment with the direction your baby faces and see what he likes best. If he gets tired, you may want to face him in toward your body to minimize his stimulation. Read steps to help prevent overstimulation here. If he shows engagement cues, wanting to interact and play, face him outward to engage with other babies in the room. For more information about how babies use cues to communicate their needs, click here.

How do you incorporate movement into your life with your baby in tow? We would love to hear your ideas.

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