The Benefits of Yoga and Massage for Your Baby (and You)

The practice of yoga can bring many rewards: it will awaken your body, sharpen your mind, and clarify your spirit. You can decide how deeply involved with yoga you want to be. It may form just a small part of your routine or you may wish to incorporate its theories, postures, diet, and philosophy into every aspect of your life.

But you will find that simply practising these exercises with your baby will begin to transform the way you feel, move, breathe, and interact with your baby and those around you.

Yoga has been described as the oldest form of personal development known to humankind, dating back some 5000 years. Although originally it was performed only by men – not until the 20th century did Indian yoga schools begin to admit women – today yoga has spread around the world and is practised by people of all abilities and ages, by both the sick and the healthy.

Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word “yug”, meaning “union”, and the essence of yoga is a yoking together of mind, body, and spirit. Its combination of postures, breath control, and meditation can promote relaxation and a sense of fulfilment or spirituality, although yoga is not a religion as such. Practising yoga will benefit you, your baby, and your relationship together. Yoga is non-competitive and is not a sport, so don’t worry if you wouldn’t describe yourself as athletic – it is important that you learn to work at your own level without straining.

Simple yoga exercises can help a baby’s balance, improve coordination and motor skills, and aid the respiratory and digestive systems, and babies who practise yoga are less likely to suffer colic and constipation. Yoga also allows babies to move freely – a welcome release from the restraints of a car seat or carry cot. Practising yoga as a mother will help you to relax and feel emotionally focused and supported, and, you and your baby will share physical and spiritual bonds as you practise yoga together.

What is baby yoga?

Baby yoga is an extension of baby massage, which has been practised in many cultures for centuries. Around the world, massage has been used to ease childbirth, aid recovery, stimulate and soothe babies, and alleviate a range of adult ailments. In many societies, massage for both mother and baby is a part of traditional birthing practice and new-born babies are massaged to stimulate their survival mechanisms and help them resist disease.

Yoga is an ideal form of exercise to practise during the postnatal period. It is diverse enough to contain a huge range of physical levels, from gentle movements to vigorous exercise. After the birth you will be facing many adjustments to your life and may feel both joy and despair, as well as tiredness and frustration with your appearance. The deep relaxed breathing promoted by yoga can fill your body with “prana” (energy), while the calm, supine posture of “shavasana” will recharge you, leaving you better able to direct your body’s resources toward healing yourself and caring for your baby.

Yoga and the breath cannot be separated – in yogic terms, a life is measured not in years but in the number of breaths you take. By learning to breathe correctly, you will learn to calm your mind and emotions – there is evidence of an intrinsic link between the emotions and the breath.You will notice that if you are angry or tense you breathe quickly and in a shallow way. By slowing down and deepening your breathing, you will find that you will begin to calm yourself down and feel more relaxed.

Yoga brings mindfulness: it teaches us to focus on the here and now and to appreciate life’s gifts and helps us to face its difficulties with clarity and openness. Yoga can offer a grounding in parenting, teaching us to enjoy the moment yet be always open to reflection. As we learn to care for ourselves, gain an understanding of our own needs and limitations, forgive our mistakes, and be open to improvement, we will be better equipped to parent in an honest way, without feeling spiritually or emotionally parched.

There are various branches of yoga, of which Hatha yoga, based on physical movements and postures called “asanas”, is the most popular and widely known. Hatha yoga, which has found a strong following in Western society over the past decades, is also regarded as “traditional” yoga and provides the basis for the practices on this website.

Asanas can be combined in different ways, meeting a number of muscular, meditative, and energetic needs. They also encourage concentration on the connection between breathing, the physical self, thoughts, and feelings. “Hatha” is formed from the Sanskrit words for the sun and moon, indicating a fusion of opposites, but Hatha yoga can equally be understood as “yoga of activity”. Hatha yoga is practical, relaxing muscles and improving posture, strength, and flexibility. It is also slow paced and gentle, calming and meditative, using breathing techniques, or “Pranyama”, to improve health. But for you and your baby, yoga can most especially bring joy, fulfilment, and a greater sense of togetherness.

In this article you will learn:

  • How baby massage helps post-natal illness
  • Why babies need touch
  • How to use yoga and massage to alleviate colic
  • How yoga and massage may help your baby sleep

Why yoga and massage are good for your baby and you

Emotional benefits

When the subjects of baby massage and yoga are discussed, it is often the physical benefits that are considered first, but there are also a number of emotional benefits to be gained by both the baby and the parent when they engage in baby massage and yoga on a regular basis.

Helping your baby adapt to their new environment

Upon leaving the comfort of their mother’s womb, a newborn can End that entering the new phase of their life is rather stressful. Massage and yoga, however, can reduce stress, which is as important for tiny babies as it is for adults! Regular massage can help babies adapt to their new environment and reassure them.

In time, when they feel anxious, out of sorts or in a stressful situation, parents can use massage, which their baby recognizes as a pleasant experience, to help calm and soothe their baby.

Insight

Studies carried out at the Touch Research Institute in Miami showed that cortisol levels (a hormone we all secrete when we are under stress) were greatly reduced in babies that had a massage to soothe them rather than those that were simply rocked.

Overcoming intrusive medical intervention

Massage and yoga can help babies that have received intrusive medical interventions and may associate touch with a negative experience. If your baby has received some medical intervention, you might find initially that massage and yoga may be far too stimulating and distressing for your baby, but you can overcome this by gently introducing the concept of positive touch to them. This can simply be stroking over your baby’s clothes, while holding them securely and talking to them soothingly or practising the containment and holding techniques.

The length of time it takes for a baby to become comfortable with touch depends upon the nature of the baby and the type of intervention they received. Gradually you will be able to progress to the massage routine and then the baby yoga exercises, being guided by your baby’s subtle forms of communication. Eventually your baby will gradually begin to associate touch in a positive light and the negative feelings connected with the medical intervention will become a distant memory.

Understanding your baby

Not all parents are completely confident about handling their baby in the first months of their life, which can leave the parents feeling rather inadequate and dis-empowered. The massage and yoga routines are designed to help parents feel more confident about touching and handling their babies.

Insight

2008 study shows that baby massage helps mothers – particularly second-time and older mums – feel more confident with their babies.

Through massage and yoga you can learn how your baby communicates with you by understanding their positive and negative cues. These are the noises, movements and subtle physical changes that your baby makes. This may help you to feel more in control as you gain a greater understanding of your baby and you will find that this enhances the mutual respect between you.

Also, with this greater understanding, the communication between both of you should improve. so that you are able to recognize when your baby is over-stimulated, why your baby cries, how to help them become calmer and begin to help your baby use their own self-calming techniques.

Bonding with your baby

Touch, eye contact, smell and sounds of the parent’s voice are all elements of the bonding process between parent and baby. However, because of the pressures to return to work soon after birth, there is a need for parents and babies to become less dependent upon each other very quickly. Also, spending time holding, touching and chatting to our babies happens less frequently and because of this the bonding process may be affected.

Insight

The eminent child psychologist, Bernard Brazelton, believes that touch is central to the development of the bonding relationship between a mother and her baby.

Baby massage and yoga are excellent forms of positive touch and therefore, without doubt, are extremely important tools for you to use to help you communicate with your baby; in turn this naturally helps with the attachment and bonding between you.
Insight

Bonding is vital to the child-parent lifelong relationship.

Sibling rivalry

When a new baby arrives into a family that already has one or more children, the family dynamics can be changed dramatically. Older siblings can feel alienated, neglected and just down-right jealous of the new arrival. Parents who are sensitive to this know the importance of helping the older children come to terms with and accept the new baby. Baby massage and yoga can be extremely useful in this process.

If you have older children, you can really help make a difference to the way they feel about your new baby by involving them in the routines, thereby showing them that they are still just as important to you as they always were. Not only that, they may enjoy the new found responsibility as ‘older’ brother or sister.

They can help by:

  • Preparing the room.
  • Choosing the music and the nursery rhymes.
  • Holding the bottle of oil.
  • Watching for the baby’s cues (helping them learn what the baby is saying).
Activity

A fun idea is to encourage the older child to copy the massage strokes and the yoga exercises, that you are doing with their new brother or sister, on their favourite doll or teddy.

Post-natal illness (Depression)

Post-natal illness (PNI) is quite common (up to as many as 20 per cent of women experience PNI after the birth of their child) and unfortunately, is often under-recognised and under treated. PNI usually appears in the early months after childbirth but can occur at any time during the first year of the baby’s life. If undetected, a mother may be suffering well beyond this period.

Support and treatment for PNI

If a mother is suffering from PNI it is extremely important that she confides in someone that she trusts, be that her partner, family member, Health Visitor or GP. Attending a post-natal group or baby massage and/or yoga class can be of real benefit as these are very supportive, non-judgemental and usually available in the local community. Often, having the opportunity to share fears and anxiety with other mothers can bring tremendous relief.

Other treatments of post-natal illness include self-help strategies, complementary therapies, counselling, medication/therapy and sometimes hospital-based care.

Evidence that baby massage helps PNI sufferers

It is thought that kissing, cuddling and prolonged gazing at the baby are indicators of a developing bond. Baby massage can ensure that a mother spends quality time with her baby and will help with the bonding process, thus helping the baby to develop a strong attachment to its mother, which can promote a sense of security in the baby. The child is then more likely to grow up self-assured and self-confident.

Unfortunately the bonding and attachment process between a mother and her baby can be greatly impeded, and in some cases it may not happen at all, when a mother is suffering from PNI. Very often mothers who are suffering from PNI avoid eye contact with other people and often avoid communicating generally. Sadly, this can also be the case with her baby. However, it is proven that baby massage can help break the cycle of negative or limited interaction between a mother and her baby and is a highly effective way of helping mothers that are suffering emotionally. Although there is no official research to indicate that yoga is beneficial in relation to PNI, as the yoga routine encourages interaction, it can be assumed that it is valuable for improving communication and ultimately enhancing the development of a loving, caring, mother-child relationship, just as massage is shown to be.

Mothers suffering from PNI benefit greatly from participating in baby massage on a very regular basis for the following reasons:

  • Baby massage can help stimulate an increase in the hormone responsible for maternal feelings.
  • The baby is more relaxed, happier and the cycle of negative interaction between mother and baby can be broken.
  • Babies who received massage (rather than being rocked) gained more weight.
  • Babies who were massaged had fewer sleep problems.
  • Babies are calmer.
  • Babies interact better with their mother.
  • The mother’s stress hormone levels were lower.
  • The mother’s ‘feel good’ hormones were increased.

Proof that babies need touch

When studied, baby monkeys:

  • Prefer a surrogate mum that is warm and cuddly but does not offer food.
  • Ignore a surrogate mum that offers food but is not warm and cuddly.
Insight

In short, research proves that baby massage has the most profound effect on reducing the negative effects of post-natal illness by improving a baby’s cognitive development and enhancing the relationship between the mother and her baby.

Fathers

The emotional benefits of baby massage, such as quality, one-to one loving touch, can also be experienced by fathers too.

Insight

Studies from the Total Research Institute in Miami show us that fathers who gave their babies a 15-minute daily massage prior to bedtime for one month communicated much better with their babies.

Physical benefits

Strengthens body systems

Regular massage and yoga may help to strengthen your baby’s immune system and increase their resistance to infection. It may also improve blood circulation and help to drain the lymphatic system as well as improving the overall condition of their skin (provided a non-contaminated, organic vegetable oil is applied).

Massaging your baby’s face can alleviate nasal congestion and help drain mucus from the nasal passages, which is extremely helpful for when your baby has a snuffle. Also, the Toe Rolling exercise is excellent for helping to alleviate the symptoms of a cold and teething niggles, as this exercise is based around the traditional art of reflexology and the toes represent the face, including the nose, mouth, eyes and sinuses. Not only does massaging your baby’s toes alleviate these symptoms, but it also has an immediate effect on their nervous system and encourages general well-being.

Colic

It can be a most upsetting experience for a parent to watch a young baby screaming in agony with, what looks like, severe tummy pains. It often lasts for many hours and usually starts around the same time each day. The condition is harmless, although it can be distressing for a baby to experience and for the parents to observe. This distressing condition often creates stress and anxiety within the home. Parents and other family members may find it difficult to cope with the constant crying, so it’s important to seek support and if possible to take a break occasionally.

What is Colic?

Colic is uncontrollable, extended crying in a baby who is otherwise healthy and well-fed. Every baby cries, but babies who cry for more than three hours a day, three to four days a week, may have Colic. It can start when a baby is around two to four weeks of age and may last for three months, or possibly longer. There are some practitioners who believe that colic does not exist, but for those parents that experience the early evening bouts of screaming and obvious distress with their babies it is definitely real enough! However, colic is not a serious condition.

What causes Colic?

The cause of colic is not really known. It is often thought to be related to the digestive system. Another possible cause is a combination of a baby’s temperament and an immature nervous system. A baby’s temperament may make them highly sensitive to the environment, and they may react to normal stimulation, changes to the environment or pick up on parental stress by crying. A baby is unable to regulate crying once they start because of their immature nervous system.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom is continuous crying for long periods of time. A baby may look uncomfortable or appear to be in pain and may lift their head, draw their legs up to their tummy, become red in the face and pass wind. Some babies refuse to eat during a colicky bout, though research shows that babies with colic generally continue to eat and gain weight normally.

Although this crying can occur at any time, it usually worsens between 4 pm and 8 pm often a time when there is a lot of external stimulation in the home: perhaps older siblings are arriving home from school, the television goes on, the telephone may ring, other family members are arriving home from work, the evening meal is being prepared and the baby, very often, is in the middle of this commotion. Some babies will love the hustle and bustle, but others may hate it, especially those that are sensitive and suffering from colic. It might be expedient to reduce as much of the external stimulations for the baby as possible.

When to see a Doctor

Colic does not need medical treatment. However, if you are worried about your baby’s crying, you may want to seek advice from a healthcare professional to make sure there is no serious underlying problem. Before visiting a doctor, all other possible causes of crying should be eliminated. These include the following:

  • Hunger tiredness.
  • Lack of contact – some babies want to be cuddled all the time.
  • Startling, e.g. due to a jerky movement or sudden noise.
  • Undressing – some babies do not like to be naked.
  • Temperature – is your baby too hot or too cold?
  • Pain – is there an identifiable source of pain, e.g. a nappy rash or some irritation in clothing?

Using yoga and massage to alleviate Colic

Massaging your baby’s tummy is a fantastic way to help regulate and strengthen the digestive system and alleviate wind, constipation and colic. It is very important to follow the guide in this book and massage their tummy in a clockwise direction as this is the direction in which the contents of the bowel move. By doing this you can help to move wind and faeces in the right direction.

Furthermore, as massage and yoga can be relaxing, a stressed baby may find they are less anxious.

However, it is extremely important that you do not massage your baby while they are crying with pain. Firstly, crying is a ‘negative cue’ and a parent would not be listening to their baby if they ignored this and started to massage their tummy, regardless. Secondly, the best way to alleviate the problem is to catch it early before the baby is in real pain. Parents with a colicky baby will know the signs and the usual time that their baby will begin to suffer with colic – which is so often around tea time.

Using the Colic routine

  • A simple colic routine which is followed and repeated, preferably three or four times a day and particularly an hour before the time the colic begins, you should see a marked difference in your baby.
  • After the colic routine, allow your baby to rest quietly.
  • Your baby may find it particularly calming when facing a blank wall for a little while (especially if there is much commotion in the home).
  • The Lazy Lion Containment Hold is extremely good for alleviating the discomfort of stomach ache and colic.

Other treatments for Colic

There is no single cure for colic, but there are several measures that can be taken that may help. Individual babies have different needs, and parents should try various methods to see what works.

Parents who bottle-feed their babies may want to try a different formula. For mothers who breastfeed, it is a good idea to continue this because weaning the baby from breast milk may make the colic worse.

Some nursing mothers find that certain foods in their diet seem to worsen the effects of colic so cutting these foods out can help. These might include cruciferous vegetables (e.g. cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts and parsnip), beans, onions, garlic, apricots, melon, spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol.

If there is a family history of milk sugar (lactose) intolerance, breastfeeding mothers could try eliminating cows milk from their diet (however, seek advice before making major changes to any diet). Sometimes babies are not able to digest lactose well – this improves as they get older.

If your baby seems to have a lot of wind, make sure they are winded after each feed. Babies who are bottle-fed may swallow air from the bottle; try feeding your baby in a different position, or use a bottle and teat designed to reduce the amount of air your baby swallows during a feed.

Restful sleep

One of the issues, which every new parent has to cope with, is not getting enough sleep. If your baby is finding it difficult to get to sleep, or is waking several limes in the night, you will be suffering all the more.

Try not to be drawn into comparisons with other babies. Babies do not know the difference between night and day at first and most babies less than six months wake up regularly during the night. For the first three or four months, babies find it difficult to go more than six hours at night without a feed and this is even truer for breast-fed babies. However, babies may not always wake for hunger. They are emotionally dependent on their parents and will learn from experience that if needed their parent will respond. A baby does not have the capacity to understand anyone else’s feelings and if they seem to be very demanding it is not because they are ‘trying it on’. A baby that has a feeling of being loved during its first year is more likely to know that a parent will come to them if really needed and not to fret if the attention is not immediate. If the parent responds, the baby’s confidence will grow, and eventually they will learn to settle or entertain themselves.

How yoga and massage may help your baby sleep

Many babies find massage very soothing, and may even fall asleep immediately afterwards. You may find that your baby will sleep deeper and longer after a massage. If massage is introduced after their bath and as part of your baby’s going-to-bed routine, it can help to release the tension in your baby, not to mention you!

The massage and yoga improves a baby’s circulation, deepens and regulates the breathing, and increases the levels of oxygen in the bloodstream, which can lead to deeper sleep. Massage can help to make sleep-time more peaceful with a familiar pattern to it, which is very beneficial for fussy babies.

Other tips to help your baby sleep

In addition to using the massage and yoga techniques, try the following:

  • Carrying your baby in a front sling or back pack.
  • Swaddling your baby to help them feel secure.
  • Placing your baby facing a blank wall, away from distractions.
  • Placing your baby near continuous noise or vibrations from household appliances like the washing machine, dishwasher or vacuum cleaner.
  • Helping your baby to practise their self-calming techniques.

If your baby does not fall asleep in the evening, wakes during the night or early in the morning or cries excessively, then try some of the following.

Sleeping without a teat cue

Your baby will learn very quickly that sleep follows a feed. To help your baby fall asleep without the need for a teat or breast in their mouth, it may be worth rousing them a little as you finally put them down to sleep so they feel themselves dozing off without something in their mouth.

Time to settle

Give your baby time to settle, but do not leave him/her crying and distressed for too long. The same applies if your baby wakes in the night.

Sleepy atmosphere

Whisper to your baby very quietly and soothingly so as to create a sleepy atmosphere. This gives them the opportunity to learn that this IS different from daytime.

Toys

A lot of older babies become fond of a cuddly toy that has been introduced to them in the cot at an early stage. They will use this to cuddle before falling asleep. From about five months old, babies often like to play with a small toy during massage. The toy they cuddle at bedtime could be used for this purpose. It is common for children to hang onto this toy when they are ill or visiting new and strange places it is known as a ‘transitional object’. A transitional object is one that your baby associates with you and their lovely massage, from which they can take comfort in your absence.

Warmth

Babies sleep better when they are warm. Baby-grows can keep them warm when they kick off blankets, but if your baby is very restless then a fitted sleeping blanket might be the answer. Make sure the blanket fits well, has no arms and has a tog rating of no higher than 1.5. (For safe sleeping, babies should not overheat either.)

Light

When attending to your baby in the night, do this in the dark so that your baby does not associate ‘lights on’ with Visits from mummy or daddy! Night lights can help children drift off to sleep (for safety reasons switch these off when you go to bed). Black-out blinds can be useful in summer to cut out the early morning sun.

Noise

A certain amount of low-level noise can be comforting for your baby. However, sudden, loud noise can disturb their sleep. If possible, move your baby to another room away from noise. Central heating noise can be a real problem for disturbing sleep. One helpful idea could be to delay the onset in the morning by half an hour so that your baby gets more sleep.

Music

Some babies respond to the rhythmic sounds of music. This works best when the baby is rocked from head to toe (rather than from side to side). Soothing music, or music that was played while the baby was still in the womb (in the third trimester) can be have a calming effect once the baby is born.

Natural pain relief

Generally, massage stimulates the production of oxytocin (a hormone secreted by both sexes), which is a natural pain reliever and induces a calming effect for your baby.

Putting your baby in prone position during the day

A number of weeks prior to learning the back massage strokes, it is advisable that you lay your baby on their tummy for a short period each day. This helps your baby to feel comfortable and gain confidence in this position. Also, it can help with the crawl response and encourages your baby to lift its head. Your baby may resist initially as they may find it strange, so it is always best if you try this for short periods of time to avoid your baby getting tired or irritable.

Activity

In the week leading up to learning the back massage, place your baby on their front for five minutes, a couple of times a day. It is important that this activity is only carried out when you are able to stay with them to reassure them. Remember that this is new to them, and also, from a safety point of view, your baby should never be left alone at this time.

The benefits of the prone position

Lying your baby on their tummy is a great way to help with their muscle development and to increase strength. It also helps your baby to be able to:

  • Feel confident being on their front.
  • Lift their head, to turn and look.
  • Lift their upper body with support from their forearms.
  • Push their arms into a rigid position. (This may cause your baby to roll over so never leave your baby alone on a raised surface, changing platform or bed)
  • Move their weight on to one hand enabling them to reach for a toy.
  • Practise the crawl movement by drawing their knees towards their hips.
  • Push up with their hands when on their knees so they can rock.
Insight

Since it has become more popular to put babies on their backs to sleep, this practice has now become an ‘all day routine’. This has led to an increase of babies with ‘flat head syndrome’ or an abnormally shaped head. So, during supervised play time, it will be helpful for your baby’s development if they spend time on their tummy.

Helping your baby’s cognitive development

Cognitive development is the process by which the brain develops the abilities to learn thinking, reasoning, memory and language skills during their early years and helps a child create an impression of the world around them.

These abilities start to develop in early infancy as the brain begins forming connections: during the first two years of life a baby’s brain is developing at an exceptional rate. At birth, babies mainly rely on the primitive part of the brain to help them through the early stages of their life. This primitive part of the brain, which functions on a basic instinctual and emotional level only, is not ‘wired up’ to the front part of the brain that is responsible for rational thoughts. The pathways from the primitive brain to the frontal brain need to connect in the early years to enable a child to grow into a rational, reasoning and caring human being.

To help make these connections, a baby requires lots of positive and varied experiences such as new sights, sounds, smells and tactile stimulation. Massage and yoga are excellent ways of bringing new and positive experiences into a young baby’s life as they offer the opportunity for positive touch and early play, especially when accompanied with lots of talking, music and singing of nursery rhymes. Studies show that using nursery rhymes in play can be a wonderful learning tool and can enhance brain development in a growing baby. Other studies have shown that positive experiences (such as baby massage and yoga) in the first two years of a baby’s life, enhances not only the physical development of the child but also their brain development. Baby massage and yoga allow a baby to have fun and gives them many positive experiences.

Your baby’s cognitive development between 1 and 12 months of age

The brain development follows a typical pattern in the first 12 months of a baby’s life:

  • Between one and two months of age, babies become interested in new objects and will turn and look towards them. They also gaze longer at more complicated objects and seem to enjoy looking at many new objects, as though trying to learn as much about their new world as possible.
  • At around three months of age, babies are able to anticipate future events. For example, they will become excited when their parent gently lays their hands on their chest and asks if they want a massage.
  • At around four months, a baby’s sight becomes more advanced and they are now able to combine what they see with what they taste, hear and feel. A baby will be able to wiggle and feel their fingers, and see their fingers move as they become more self-aware. Massage can help them become more aware of their legs, feet, arms and hands.
  • Connections in the brain are growing rapidly between six and nine months of age. Babies can recognize the appearance, sound and touch of familiar people. Also, babies are able to recall the memory of a person, such as a parent, or an object when that particular person or object is not in view.
  • At nine to 12 months of age a baby is constantly observing the behaviour of others. They start to reveal their personality and become curious about their surroundings and begin to explore. They are also able to demonstrate many different emotions. At this curious stage, massage may become more of a challenge as the baby may not want to lie still.

Cognitive development 12-18 months

  • Between the ages of 12 to 18 months, toddlers continue to explore their environment and create experiments to see how things work. They will play with anything they can find; however, at this stage they are not aware of danger so they do not realize that certain things like fires, sharp knives and electric plug sockets can hurt them.
  • During this stage the ability to recognize people and objects moves on a step – not only do the babies realize that something can be hidden and still exist, but by now they will look for it too.
  • Also around this time, babies develop the capacity to build memories that incorporate all their senses. For instance, children are able to see a mental picture of an object they are holding in their hand without actually looking at it. They remember the object as a whole, through all their senses; they remember its texture and size in their hands, its sound through their ears, and perhaps even its smell.

Cognitive development 18-24 months

  • Between the ages of 18 and 24 months, toddlers are able to create a generic image of things in their minds and retain them as examples of certain objects. They may create in their mind a picture of a teddy bear, and use it to represent other cuddly animals they play with. Because of this, babies may look for their favourite teddy bear in the toy box because they know that is where it usually lives!
  • At this stage, a baby 5 recall and recognition memory also improves significantly. Around 21 months old, toddlers learn routines, about how certain things are done. For example, they learn that ‘an outing to the park’, is ‘Mum collects the coats and hats, mum puts on baby’s coat and hat, mum puts toddler in the pushchair. Mum opens the front door. Mum and toddler leave the house’. With massage and yoga, you may find that when you ask your baby if they want a massage they will start to collect some of the equipment, such as the bottle of oil, or they may remove some of their clothes and lie on the floor in anticipation!
  • Also around 21 months of age, babies reach a number of other developmental milestones and have grasped the concept of past, present and future.
  • They also begin to understand that ‘things’ fit into certain categories, such as recognizing a car as a car, even though all cars do not look the same.
  • They begin to recognize what things are alike and why, and what other objects fit or do not fit into particular categories.
  • Around 24 months of age, toddlers are able to pretend and imagine things that aren’t there in front of them. This is the first step beyond ‘concrete thinking’ which means only being able to think about things that are in front of them. Introducing a simple story-time massage, for instance about a little cat or dog, can help encourage their imagination.
Insight

One session of baby yoga gives enough physical activity that is equivalent to having been handled and carried all day.

Things to remember

Benefits for baby

Yoga and massage can:

  • Help a baby adapt to their new environment and become generally more settled.
  • Help a baby develop their first language touch.
  • Enhance baby’s feeling of being loved, respected and secure.
  • Promote relaxation, which can improve quality of sleep.
  • Help a baby cope with stressful situations by regulating cortisol levels.
  • Reduce the discomfort of colic, wind and constipation.
  • Regulate and strengthen their digestive, respiratory and immune systems.
  • Stimulate the circulatory system and balance the nervous system.
  • Stimulate the lymphatic system.
  • Help general growth and cognitive development.
  • Develop body-mind awareness and co-ordination.
  • Improve skin condition.
  • Help the baby associate touch with positive handling (particularly important for babies who have experienced intrusive medical intervention).
  • Strengthen and tone muscles.
  • Help maintain flexibility of the joints, ligaments and tendons.
  • Help the development of co-ordination, balance and motor skills.
  • Stimulate all the senses.
  • Help a baby learn to interact and play with others.

Benefits for parents

Yoga and massage can:

  • Help parents to become more confident and competent in handling their baby.
  • Help parents to understand their baby’s non-verbal communication.