Moving Together and for Yourself
Touch and movement are some of the earliest methods of communication between parent and child. The relationship starts from those first wiggles, shifts, and kicks felt from inside the womb that can elicit strong emotional responses. continues through to first skin-to-skin contact and feeds into a parent’s ability to pick up on important movement cues such as rooting. Baby’s energy and mood are often instinctively matched by parents through mirroring or copying movement and facial expressions. Then there’s also vocal accompaniment such as cooing or nonsense sounds. This is all part of the vital bonding, or attuning, process.
The importance of moving with (and in response to) your baby is well-documented in Attachment and Developmental Theory. But what about the body of a new parent? What sort of movement might they need?
Self-care isn’t a luxury
Taking a moment to pause and focus on yourself may be difficult for a mum, whether this is a brand new role or one you have experienced many times before. As you hustle and bustle, trying to fit everything in and spending a lot of energy on caring for others, it’s easy to tune out the signals your body is sending you. This means stress hormones can sometimes circulate in your body longer than they need to, and you may find suppressed emotions overflowing at a later date. Taking some time now to look after yourself, body and soul, is a generous and vital investment in your wellbeing.
Mums and babies moving together
I am a Dance Movement Psychotherapist* who is interested in how different bodily changes and achievements affect how we see ourselves, how we relate to others, and how we get on with day to life. I utilise this curiosity and my body-based psychotherapeutic knowledge to facilitate regular wellbeing movement groups for mums and their babies.
The mum and baby movement group provides some focused time for mums to engage in activities that are beneficial both for them and their babies.
A large portion of each session is spent moving together, using a developmental movement rhythm as a jumping off point and sensory items that stimulate both mum and baby’s creativity and discovery. However, we also focus on the mums, providing space and guidance at the beginning and end of each session for each woman to notice what her body needs in that moment. In other words, it’s turning that understanding and responsive instinct as a parent inward, and noticing what you need and can do for yourself in the moment.
It’s a chance to consider and honour the hard work your body has done, and continues to do, and to nurture yourself with your own resources. It’s a moment to (try to) turn off the whirling thoughts, to-do lists, and worries and joys that occupy our headspace. It’s finding simple comforts that may feel familiar from our own childhoods, or maybe discover something new and unexpected.
Responding to your own needs: guided self-care
I would like to leave you with a suggestion and some questions, so you can take your own moment to focus inwards and respond to your own needs.
Find a comfortable, restful position. This is just for you, so it doesn’t need to look pretty or interesting.
Notice the points of support on your body – whether this is the back of a chair on your own back, the floor against your legs etc.
Focus on that support, encourage your muscles to release and soften, you don’t need to hold yourself up.
Take a few deep, slow, breaths. Try to ride a gentle undulating wave up with your breath in, and release it softly down and out.
Now pay attention to whether there is any muscle tension you could work out through a long, slow stretch or reach. Or maybe applying some self-touch to squeeze and massage tight muscles.
Would you rather sit or lie in stillness, just breathing in and out with eyes shut? Pause.
Does a gentle self-soothing rocking rhythm feel good? Maybe something else repetitive that doesn’t require much muscle strain?
Or do you want to use up (or find) some energy through more dynamic movement? Maybe a big stretch high to the sky, some gentle swinging side to side, or a funny wiggle?
Stick with what feels good, or move on and experiment. See if you can focus on bodily sensations.
And when you feel ready (or the doorbell goes, or baby needs your attention!) try to come out of this focused state gently and slowly. Acknowledge the moment you have taken for yourself, to care for yourself.