Every parent knows the calming effects on their baby of rocking and gentle motion. After all, who among us has not paced the floor at 2 am trying to entice a little one back to sleep by rocking, bouncing or swaying?
While you may not be able to do much about those late night pacing sessions, you can capitalise on your baby’s love of rhythmical movement to benefit both of you in many other ways as well. Instead of saving your dance sessions for the wee hours, why not make music and dancing a regular part of your routine with your baby?
Babies begin to develop rhythm skills very early on when they are consistently exposed to music and movement. In fact, it’s probably more accurate to say that babies are born with natural rhythm and all we need to do is nurture it. If you expose your baby to the joys of dance throughout his childhood, just think how much more confident he’ll feel as a teenager at his high school prom! In cultures where music and dance are a part of everyday life, no one grows up to be "rhythmically challenged!"
If rhythm and movement are a consistent part of your child’s life from an early age, the ability to express herself through creative movement will stay with her throughout her life. Many parents are concerned about the effects of inactivity on their children in this age of easy access to computers and video games. Cultivating a love of music and dance early in life provides an excellent introduction to other healthy
Even when your baby is very young, dancing in your arms can be an exciting play and social time that he will look forward to. You will probably find that as your baby grows he will soon begin to eagerly anticipate his favourite dance moves like dips and spins. He’ll also tell you by his reactions what type of music and dancing he likes best.
For parents, sharing movement and music with your baby helps in creating a stronger parent child bond. Many parents find that the more time they spend in close contact with their baby, the more sensitive they become to their baby’s needs and signals, and the more easily they are able to decipher what their baby is telling them. Done regularly, shared dancing can become a wonderful way to communicate with your baby.
For new moms especially, moving to music with baby is a delightful way to get some gentle exercise and helps with getting back in shape after childbirth. Most new mothers are eager to lose those extra pregnancy pounds, yet it’s also important to eat well and not exert yourself too strenuously, especially in the early postpartum weeks when you may not be getting much sleep. Holding your baby in your arms while you both enjoy a waltz, a 2-step or even some good old fashioned rock ’n’ roll, is a wonderful way to get some gentle exercise, and it’s fun too!
And finally, we all know that a stressed out mom equals a stressed out baby. Because dancing is such good exercise, it tends to produce endorphins, the body’s natural "feel good" chemicals. These are the same ones responsible for "runner’s high." So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, try picking up baby and taking him for a spin around the living room to your favourite music. You might just find that you both become calmer as a result.
So why not make good use of your natural instincts to cuddle and rock your baby? Put on your favourite music and enjoy a few dances with your baby on a regular basis. You’ll get a much needed break and some fun exercise. And whether your baby falls asleep or dances right along with you, she’ll be enjoying this special bonding and playtime with you while developing an appreciation for music and movement
that has the potential to stay with her throughout her life.
Susan Peach has over 20 years experience as a dance and fitness instructor and is the owner of Dance Land Studio in Nanaimo. She is also the creator of Mambo Moms, a dance program for moms and babies to enjoy together (www.MamboMoms.com).