Are baby classes over stimulating?

Cai Baby classes focus on using all of the senses to promote the parent-baby relationship and increase opportunities for you to connect with your baby or babies. It is important then that I focus on creating a calm, gentle and relaxed environment for you both to unwind and enjoy each other.

If your baby becomes overstimulated they will likely disengage, look away or become upset.

Babies are ‘generalists and hear all frequencies simultaneously so they can respond to unexpected sounds’ says Lynne Werner, professor of speech and hearing in the May edition of The Journal of the Acoustic Society of America.

Adult brains can filter out background noise, for example the washing machine or radio, to focus on the voice of the person they are communicating with - babies can’t.

Werner says ‘They [babies] don’t have the selective attention of adults and they don’t pay attention all of the time. Instead they always seem to be listening broadband or to all frequencies simultaneously … in today’s Western culture a baby is at a great disadvantage. All the noise we expose people to makes it difficult for babies. The practical lesson here is, if you are talking to a baby or reading her a story, background noise can be a problem. Turn off the television or radio’.

This is why I don't introduce anything into my classes that detracts or distracts from the baby’s focus on their parent, or the parent’s focus on their baby or babies.

Cai Baby classes are stripped back to provide the space for parents and their baby or babies to connect and communicate without being overstimulated.

Kerstin Uvnӓs Moberg says ‘When a family or another group of people does something together, touch, smell, and other senses play a natural part in their interactions.’

During Cai Baby classes we use parent vocalisations to communicate with babies. We know from research that a young baby’s favourite sound is their mother’s voice.

I encourage parents not to wear scents, and I never wear perfume when running classes. The olfactory system is often ignored, but smell plays an important part in the dance of building an attachment. Smell is also a stimulant.

We make eye contact, which we know plays an important role in helping parents understand their baby’s unique language and individual cues.

Are classes too stimulating?

Touch is the first sense we develop and is such an important one for communicating love.

Touch can be very stimulating and babies need to develop a tolerance over a period of time to the stimulation of touch combined with sound, smell and visual stimuli. The IAIM 5 week baby massage programme I teach is designed to support the gradual introduction of stimulation in an easy, calm and fun way.

Through nurturing touch oxytocin production increases in both the parent and the baby during baby massage and baby yoga. The levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – decreases in both the parent and their baby, creating calm.

Oxytocin has the ability to stimulate the secretion of growth hormones, lower blood pressure and pulse rate, reduce the level of stress hormones and promote learning and a feelings of calm. It is commonly called the ‘love hormone’ as it is believed to promote a loving bond between a parent and their baby and it plays a crucial role in labour and birth and also breast-feeding.

Ashley Montagu says ‘The communications we transmit through touch constitute the most powerful means of establishing human relationships, the foundation of experience’.

Baby massage and baby yoga are not treatments or therapy, but a wonderful way to spend time with your baby. With a calm class, there can be a mindful connection between parents and babies. Parents and babies can enjoy quality time and have fun together. Just the parent, their baby, some oil for massage, and a cup of tea. That is all that is needed.

I’ll end with this quote from Kerstin Uvnӓs Moberg ‘…all of our senses are constantly involved in interpreting our immediate environment. If we sense it to be threatening and dangerous, our fight or flight reaction is evoked; but if we interpret it to be pleasant and peaceful, we have a response of calm and connection’.

Cheryl Titherly
Certified Infant Massage Instructor with IAIM
Cai Baby Massage       @caibabysussex

Blog originally written for the ABC Magazine, Winter Edition 2018.