As soon as I clocked off
work for my maternity leave, I began to look forward to the groups I could
attend with my soon-to-be-born baby. I loved the idea of leisurely carrying
him/her in their car seat to and from baby massage, baby yoga, fitness and
music lessons, smiling in the knowledge that their mind was expanding as they
absorbed all these fantastic interactive classes.
But I didn’t quite
appreciate that sometimes – especially at the beginning – it wasn’t as easy as
In fact, only a few days
after becoming a mum, I realised baby groups may be a long way off, as even
just leaving the house seemed tantamount to climbing the Himalayas!
first group – Finally getting out and about
Admittedly, Moo* was only
three weeks old when I took her to her first baby group. In hindsight, I can
see she was still only a little dot, but at the time I felt I had endured 21
days of being relatively housebound and I was itching for people to see and
things to do.
I know what you’re thinking
though, what can a baby really learn at three weeks old? Well, our first group
together was baby massage, a free class run by our local Sure Start Centre. So
really it was an opportunity for me
to pick up skills, not my little angel who spent most of the course feeding or
crying if I took her clothes off.
At the beginning, I was
really conscious that I barely did much massaging during our sessions as Moo
was always tucked under my top, but I came to realise that none of that
mattered. I really came to see new faces, talk to people, complain about colic,
and have a structure to my day.
It didn’t matter that Moo
sometimes stayed asleep in her car seat, or started scrambling off as soon as
she could roll over. What was important was that I was building strong
friendships already, seeing other mothers during the difficult early days.
That’s one of the greatest
rewards of baby groups – being able to support and gain support from other mums
when you need it.
That and learning how to
help your baby bring up wind, of course!
steps – Finding the right class
Once I became confident
going to classes alone, I decided to try a few different ones – outdoor fitness
sessions (admittedly more for me), sling dancing, music, swimming, baby
gymnastics. You name it, we tried it!
But it took a while before
we settled on the right ones for us. I soon discovered that it’s not just about
whether you and your child like the class, it’s also about which ones fit into
So many were at the wrong
time, too far away so she’d be sleeping on the way back (which was a good or
bad thing depending on how many naps she was having), too expensive, or meant
you had to wrestle with the car seat too many times in one day – something that
often clinched the deal.
Also, I didn’t quite
appreciate in my dreamy carefree days of maternity leave that our needs would change over the months.
So if a class was at the right time in June, come August when Moo had dropped a
nap and was weaning, it’d fall at the worst possible point during the day.
When this happened, I just
learned to roll with it and enjoy the groups that did fit in with us. It wasn’t
until my baby girl was about six/seven months old and was on a steady two naps
and three meals a day that we had a good routine and could settle into classes
for long stretches of time.
Although this meant we
constantly had to change classes, we also got to make lots of friends, try many
new things and find groups we both really loved!
out of your comfort zone and making friends
The main reason for new
mothers to come to groups is also one of the biggest things to turn them off –
having to socialise.
I relished the opportunity
to go out, see new faces, apply a bit of make-up (when possible!), and
sometimes wipe away tears and put my ‘brave face’ on just to make me feel a bit
But I also had those days
when I didn’t want to talk to strangers or pretend I’d had a stress-free
morning, and I was only there because it was easier to have someone else sing
to Moo for an hour than me having to do it… again.
Despite the fact it can be
difficult to put your exhaustion to one side and cheerfully talk to people you
don’t know, it’s well worth it. You soon realise you’re in the same boat –
which for first-time mums is such a
relief – and even laughing about some of the more stressful moments can make
you feel better.
a toddler group pro
All in all, I achieved what
I intended to with our baby groups. We tried a lot, disliked a few and settled
on a handful we love, so much so that we still go to them now Moo is a
But best of all, I’ve made
some fabulous friends who don’t care if I’ve got traces of dry shampoo in my
dark brown hair, sick on my shoulder, or a toddler who’s trying my patience,
simply because they’ve been there since the very beginning of my baby’s life.
that’s something you won’t be able to say about a lot of people.