For many of us the last year has involved spending way more time online than we would normally wish to. And whilst it has provided us with a great way to stay in touch, we feel it often lacks something compared to “real life”, in-the-same-space interaction (I am in a choir and we can’t wait to be able to actually hear each other again, rather than just our own voices!)
When it became clear that March’s lockdown wasn’t going to be just a temporary thing, I had to decide what to do with the baby massage classes that I had already running. The only safe option was to move them online, and run them via zoom.
I won’t pretend that I wasn’t unsure as to how well it would work, and of course it did feel a little strange at first (and I have upgraded my home internet!) But having completed those courses and run several more since, I have learnt the following:
- Most importantly – it still works! Mums are still learning how to massage their little ones and being able to use those skills as part of their day to day life.
- Parents are still getting to talk to other parents. Some of my classes have been groups of friends that already know each other, some have been “open” courses that anyone can sign up to, but in either case parents have been able to talk together and share their experiences about the highs and lows of having a new baby. We’ve been able to admire the babies, how much they’ve grown and changed over the course, sympathise with lack of sleep and generally provided some friendship and moral support through these tricky times. We’ve got to peep inside people’s homes, and meet their pets too!
- Learning from home has benefits for new mums, where sometimes getting ready to leave the house can feel like climbing a mountain. They can (and do) come to class in their dressing gown, with wet hair, or however they happen to be at the time. No need to work out how many layers of clothing baby needs and get them in their car seat. Feeding, changing and cuddling as baby needs has always been a key principle of the baby massage classes but is even easier from the comfort of your own home.
- Online learning means the course can be done from wherever suits you. Participants don’t need to travel to York, so we’ve had people join us from elsewhere in North Yorkshire and further afield. It also means the course can travel with you – when lockdown lifted and people took the opportunity to visit family they could still join in, even from another country.
- It is easier for other family members to watch and join in. Dads and grannies have been spotted in the background!
- Some things seem to work better – everyone seems to get the right direction for the tummy strokes much quicker, apparently watching them on a screen is easier than when we’re sitting in a circle. (Something I am bearing in mind when planning future face to face classes!)
- There is only the baby and parent(s) in the room, meaning the scope for bonding is even stronger. At real life classes babies enjoy interacting with the mums and babies around them – which is great for socialising skills but can leave some mums feeling like their baby is ignoring them! Of course I reassure them that when they are practising the massage at home it will be 1:1. But with online learning that 1:1 is built in right from the very first session – it is lovely watching babies gazing up at their caregiver as they receive their massage. (Though it should be admitted some babies also love watching themselves on the screen!)
It is worth remembering that either in person or over zoom, the class is only the tip of the iceberg – it is the small daily practices that offer the most benefits to baby, both physical and emotional.
However it has been reassuring for me to note that online classes are not just a “better than nothing” option, they bring their own benefits.
I can’t deny that it will be lovely when we can safely have a room of mums and babies again. But, as with so much of lockdown, I am pleased to now have an alternative that can make even more accessible this special skill.