Some of my friends are taking their babies to a music class. Others are going to baby gym. I'd love to go and meet other moms, but I'm not sure if the classes are right for my baby. She'sjust four months old and very quiet and sensitive. Should I join a class? When should I introduce certain exercises/activities to help my baby prepare for her next developmental stage? I hear different opinions. For example, is it bad or good for leg development to try to help her “stand up” and put weight on her feet?
Baby classes can be a lot of fun and a good way to meet other new mothers. However, they're not a necessary part of a baby's life, and your baby’s future talents and athletic ability will not be determined by any classes you do with her now.
You will hear different opinions about what parents can do to enhance a baby's development. That's because development is influenced by many different factors: your baby's age and stage of maturity, (which may not match the standard charts in a book); her inborn temperamental factors, such as her activity level, her sensitivity to stimulation, her intensity of response, and her adaptability to new experiences; her need for sleep and rest; and the stimulation she gets from her environment. For example, a four month old baby who likes to be held and cuddled while she looks around may respond well to a parent who sings softly while she watches a curtain flutter in the wind. Another four month old baby who likes to wiggle and hear rhythmical sounds might enjoy a parent bouncing her on his lap to rock music. Some classes that use music or movement or massage as a theme are really giving you new ways to tune into your baby and to be more responsive. That can be a plus for both of you.
When it comes to motor development, you don't have to worry about introducing special activities. Your baby will develop in a predictable pattern. First she will achieve head and neck control, then torso and upper body strength, then lower limb strength. In early infancy, a baby may enjoy pushing with her feet or even bouncing as you hold her. This weight bearing pattern will fade, because it is part of a young infant's pattern of reflexes. If she enjoys being held while she "dances", that's fine, but this activity won't affect her future abilities. Later on, when her torso has gotten stronger and she is getting ready to walk she will develop on her own the ability to stand upright. As long as she has the freedom to move around (that is, not spending all day in a stroller or car seat) all of this development will occur naturally. Don’t forget to give her “tummy time” so that she can practice pushing herself up!
One thing is certain: babies benefit from interactions with adults who are sensitive to their natural likes and dislikes. As your baby gets older, you will be able to read her cues when she is having a nice time. Your activities with your baby can be seen as a dance in which you both lead and follow. If you are talking to her and she looks at you attentively, keep talking. If she loves to be bounced, keep bouncing. If she likes to sit quietly, let her do that. Notice what she likes and doesn't like and adjust what you do to what works for her.
As a new mom, you can enjoy playing with your baby without worrying too much about whether it is the right kind of play. Most babies will let you know what they like, and as you respond the relationship between the two of you will grow.