Around the world the amount of maternity leave afforded to new moms varies massively. Here in Ireland we’re around the middle of the pack, not as good as some other European countries, but far ahead of America. As most Irish moms are off for several months it can be nice to try out a class or two with your baby. It’s a great way to make sure you get out of the house and see the outside world, do something fun with your baby and have some adult conversation at the same time! I tried a couple of classes when on maternity leave with my eldest, and have tried a few different classes this time around …
1. The Baby Cinema
One of my favourite things to do is go to the baby cinema! I only heard about the baby cinema for the first time when my eldest was about 7 months or so and he was really getting too old to go at that stage so I only got to go a couple of times with him. Myself and my husband love going to the cinema, our first date was actually to the cinema (although, probably most people’s first date is the cinema when you’re 16!). Anyway, I was determined to go as much as I could this time, so our first ‘out of the house date’ after we’d enjoyed our baby moon (very important not to rush that!) was to go to the cinema. Our eldest is in montessori so we were able to go just the two of us with the baby which was lovely. A lot of cinemas run a ‘baby cinema’, but the one we go to is Dundrum’s ‘Reel Parents’. They show three different films every day Tues-Thurs (during term time only!) at 10.45am and tickets are only €5.60. Over the last number of months I’ve been to the cinema more times than the previous 3 years combined! It’s been fantastic and the babies tend to sleep through the film because it’s so dark, and a lot of the mamas feed as the film starts so they all just nod off. It’s great! For the first time in years I actual got to see most of the Oscar nominated films!! As the films only show during term time it does depend on what time of year your baby is born whether you’ll get to go frequently. As I had an autumn baby this time around I was definitely able to maximise my visits!
2. Baby Sign Language Classes
I did this course with my first and found it amazing. Baby sign language aims to teach babies and toddlers to communicate before they can verbalise. We did a local course with SuperHands which I really enjoyed. Little bear was around 5 months when I did the course, which was too young for him to start signing back but it was great for me to learn the different signs and he really enjoyed all the songs! The recommendation is to start with one sign at home and once they understand it to add more signs. We signed ‘milk’ for MONTHS before he signed it back but it was so exciting when he finally did it. It was like it suddenly clicked in his head, and the excitement when he realised ‘hey, if I do this with my hand, then milk arrives!!!’ … so needless to say there was a LOT of milk requests before the novelty wore off, thank goodness for boobs and milk on demand! Other signs we found very useful were food, water and again. Little bear actually spoke quite early so we didn’t end up using a ton of signs before he started talking but the basic 6 or 7 he had really helped eliminate a huge amount of frustration, as he could tell us most of his basic needs, without any difficulty, from a young age. I would highly recommend this to parents. Even if you don’t want to do the course there is a SuperHands app or even a quick Google will, I’m sure, reveal most important signs! I didn’t do the course again this time, as I didn’t feel it was necessary, but I am definitely using the signs!
3. Baby Swim Classes
There are a number of different companies that run swim classes for babies. We chose to do WaterBabies as they had come recommended by friends and also ran classes local to us. It was a great way to introduce a baby to water but also to get over any nervousness as parents having a young child in water. We did these classes with little bear from when he was only a few months old until he was about 18 months, at which point the only class for his level was on during his nap time. However we now happily take both kids swimming just ourselves and are comfortable using some of the skills we learnt from WaterBabies. The courses are pricey so a good idea can be to ask grandparents to buy vouchers for birthdays or Christmas. Not only does this cut down on expenses for parents, it reduces the toy volume somewhat and people do generally love to give ‘experience’ presents – so it’s a win all round!
4. Baby Massage Classes
I knew lots of people who had done this with their babies and raved about it, so I decided to try it out during my second maternity leave. Depending on the type of health insurance you have, you can also claim a hefty percentage of the course cost back. I decided to try out U Mamma in Kilmacanoge as it’s not too far from me. Also, the night I looked into it I discovered they were starting a new 4 week course the following morning – handy! The instructor was lovely and there were about 10 mamas and babies in the class (which is apparently a little larger than their average class). There are teas, coffees and biscuits available throughout the class which was a nice touch. Each week we learnt how to massage a different area of the body as well as refreshing what we learnt in previous classes. One aspect I really liked was that you are invited back to the final class of the course after yours as a little ‘refresher’ after 3 weeks of no classes, which is a really nice idea. The only downside for us, was that the class was held at 11am, which was a bad time for us in terms of when little miss was napping, so by the time we got to the end of the class she was exhausted. I think had the class been at 10.30am it would have suited us a little better, but obviously all babies nap at different times and it’s hard to pick a time that suits everyone!
5. Mommy & Baby Yoga Classes
I had a doula for my birth second time round (something I’ll write about in a future post – but highly recommend!). My doula lives about an hour away from us so she organised a ‘back up doula’ – who only lives 5 mins away – in case anything went awry. The back up doula’s name was Jan Duffy. She is an incredibly lovely woman who turned out to also be a yoga teacher. She teaches a prenatal yoga class which I unfortunately wasn’t able to attend due to my hyperemesis gravidarm (another future post!) but she also teaches a mommy and baby yoga class so I decided to check that out once little miss was a couple of months old. We’ve now been going for 5 months and love it! The beginning of the class is for the mamas. There’s lots of lovely stretching and you integrate some clapping, tickling and raspberry blowing into several of the moves to keep the babas entertained. Then the second part of the class has lots of stretching and singing for the babies. I absolutely adore this class and I always feel so great afterwards. So much of being a mother involves bending, carrying and curling around our little ones, so having a proper stretch, opening up your chest and some deep breathing is incredibly restorative. I would highly recommend this type of class if you can find one nearby.
So there you have it. 5 great activities to do with your baby during your maternity leave! There are obviously plenty more types of classes out there, but these are the one I have personal experience of that I would recommend.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve done any classes with your baby and if you’d recommend them!