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August 12, 2009 > Reading Baby's Mind...Almost

Reading Baby's Mind...Almost

Classes Promote Parental Confidence and Communication With Your Baby

Your baby is crying again, and you have no idea why. Most new parents have lamented once or twice that their new bundle of joy should come with an operating manual. Fortunately, Washington Hospital's Maternal/Childbirth Education Department and Lactation Center offers the next best thing: education.

"If you can read your baby's cues, you're more apt to be able to calm your baby down and give your baby what he or she needs," says Washington Hospital's Maternal/Child Education Coordinator Karen Smith. "We offer classes that are geared toward enhancing your ability to understand your baby's special needs. By doing this, it also releases your stress. Everybody feels better when you're better able to respond to your baby."


Communicate your love through touch

Research has shown the importance of touch in the parent-infant bonding process, but what if you could also reduce your baby's fussiness and get him or her to sleep better?

Arlene Fryling, the certified instructor who leads Washington Hospital's four-week Infant Massage class, says the class has a wealth of benefits parents may be unaware of until they have experienced them firsthand.

"In addition to massage, I teach new parents how to connect with their baby and things to watch for developmentally," Fryling says. "The biggest benefit parents are looking for is that infant massage reduces fussiness and also helps babies to sleep better. But parents also learn to tune into their baby better."

As well as giving parents a way to calm their baby's general distress, infant massage can also help relieve intestinal upset for babies, providing parents with an effective technique to use when their baby is crying because of a sore tummy from gas, Fryling emphasizes.

"First-time parents don't have a lot of experience and sometimes feel insecure, and I try to help them feel more confident. Massage is a type of communication that helps parents communicate their love, and in return, babies can communicate to parents how to respond to their cues," she says.

Massage is a powerful bonding tool with benefits that go beyond infancy, according to Fryling, who says that parents can continue to use massage to connect with their children as they grow.

"If you ask adults if they have any memory of a having a massage, they'll remember it because it's a really powerful connection," she says. "It helps when parents have a second child as well because the older sibling can lovingly connect with their younger brother or sister."


Yes, your baby can communicate!

Parents aren't the only ones that can communicate during these early stages of their baby's life.

The Maternal/Childbirth Education Department also offers Sign, Say and Play, which gives parents the tools they need to teach their babies and toddlers to communicate before they can speak. Fryling, who also teaches Sign, Say and Play, explains that babies and young children can express important needs by learning to sign.

"About the time children are getting to toddler-hood, it gets hard to read those cues because they can't communicate their needs verbally, which often leads to temper tantrums," Fryling explains. "Signing gives us a bridge when they have the ability to understand language, but they don't have the physical ability to get the words out. They can tell us what they're thinking before they can say it. We all think our baby is the smartest baby around. I say: 'Let's prove it!'"

The six-week class is structured in a playgroup format and offers new moms and dads the opportunity to enjoy a fun family activity with their babies. Each week of the class covers a different theme, incorporating normal activities of daily living, such as mealtime, bath time and bedtime and the corresponding signs. Fryling uses games and songs, and while babies don't learn all the signs during class, families leave each session with all the tools to practice signing at home, including a DVD, books and a music CD.

"Many times signing will accelerate the speech process in young children because they learn early on that they can communicate, and research has shown that," Fryling notes. "A couple of different parents have told me afterwards that the best thing they ever did was to do signing with their child. It's a fun experience for the whole family, and I've watched older siblings teach the younger ones.
Sometimes it's those little things that just make parenting so much more fun."
To see a complete list of Childbirth and Parenting classes, visit www.whhs.com, click on "The Community," select "Community Seminars & Health Classes" and choose "Childbirth and Parenting Classes."


Classes For New Parents

Sign, Say and Play: Six-week class from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays. Next session begins Sept. 1. (Geared toward babies six months and older)
Infant Massage: Four-week class from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Thursdays. Next session begins Aug. 27. (Geared toward babies up to eight months old)
Free Baby 'n' Me Support Group: A relaxed support group for moms to trade tips and tricks to ease the transition into parenthood. Group meets 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Free Sling Class: Moms, learn how to carry your baby in a way that comforts him or her and gives your arm a rest. Class is held the first Thursday of every month following the Baby 'n' Me Support Group. High quality slings are available for purchase, but purchase is not necessary, and there is no charge for the class.

Back to Work Breastfeeding: Designed to help moms going back to work learn how to express their milk effectively. Appointments are scheduled on a personal basis and must be made ahead of time.

Call (510) 791-3423 for more information about complete times, dates, class locations, or to register for a class.

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