Tummy time: Baby yoga helps infants build strength, gives parents playtime ideas
Michele Vena thought babies were fragile until she had her first and saw what little Acacia could do in baby yoga.
She could fly like "Superbaby," or hold her feet and squirm on her back in "Baby Bear." She could press herself up on her forearms in "Cobra" and support her head while lying facedown across her mother's legs in "Puppy" pose.
At 12 weeks, Acacia could make it through an entire baby yoga class taught in St. Charles by a Northwestern Medicine occupational therapist and emerge stronger and more squiggly than ever, her mother said. And Vena, on maternity leave from her job teaching third grade in St. Charles, could replicate the infant-appropriate moves with Acacia at home in Bloomingdale, giving the two new ways to bond and play.
"As soon as I get home, I try to write them down," Vena said of the baby-centric poses. "She loves 'Baby Bear.'"
Baby yoga's benefits in physical development for the infant and playful ideas for the parent are among the reasons the practice is becoming more common -- and more popular, instructor Patti Ideran said. Her class in St. Charles, for example, recently grew to its largest group yet -- nine parents and nine babies -- and attracted a dad for the first time.
"Baby yoga is kind of a new trend," she said. "Adults are starting to do more yoga, and I think it's a really fun thing."
Ideran has been offering baby yoga for the past year since getting certified through New Hampshire-based ChildLight Yoga.
Her classes are not quite the yoga equivalent of "Mommy and Me" programs in swimming, music or art because they're more baby-focused. It's not the parent who's stretching and moving, but the baby. The fact the little ones have gotten a workout is apparent, Elissa Nozicka of Elburn said.
"They're pretty hungry and tired afterward," she said, holding a pooped-out version of her 3-month-old daughter, Everlily.
But post-yoga tired is a good tired, Ideran said, because it comes from "positive touch and movement experiences."
Some of the tired comes from time on the tummy.
Pediatricians recommend babies spend time on their stomachs several times a day as soon as they're born to help prevent flat spots on their heads and to help build strength. But many scream and cry when placed on their tummies on the ground, so baby yoga offers alternate belly-down poses that still count.
"For the baby, I like that we're doing a lot of tummy time -- a lot of positive movement experiences outside of containers, outside of swings and walkers and car seats and all that stuff," Ideran said.
The classes also teach movements to help babies deal with gas, which can make them cry out of discomfort, and reflux, which can lead to lots of messy spit-up.
"Moms ask a lot of questions about irritability and fussiness," Ideran said. "I have a lot of answers that I can give because those are my areas of expertise, so it's really nice for parents to bounce something off me."
Also for the parents, Ideran likes that her classes offer a moment of relaxation at the end and a way for busy adults with new babies to connect.
"It's a really safe environment for new and learning moms," said Courtney Beckers of Carol Stream, who has so enjoyed baby yoga with her daughter, Harper, that she's now enrolled in her second cycle through Ideran's six-week class. "We learn a lot of good ways to interact with Harper and help her meet those (developmental) milestones."
The six-week program Ideran offers through Northwestern Medicine costs $60. Growing interest means Northwestern Medicine soon may offer two sections of the class to allow enough room for more parent-baby duos to join. To register, call (630) 933-4234.
"This really gives them time one-on-one to bond with the baby," Ideran said.
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When: 11:15 a.m. to noon Fridays
Where: Northwestern Medicine Medical Offices, 2900 Foxfield Road, St. Charles
Who: Taught by Patti Ideran, a pediatric occupational therapist and a certified baby and toddler yoga teacher; suitable for babies 6 weeks old or older who do not yet crawl and a parent
Cost: $60 for a six 45-minute sessions
Info: (630) 933-4234 or nm.org