When I was pregnant and getting excited about the idea of becoming a mum, I naively envisioned my days being full of beautiful walks in the park and bonding with my child at a fun baby class every day. Pre-baby (and still now to be honest) I had a busy social life. I was always joining new courses and classes, and despite loving being at home, always seemed to be out doing something. Whether it was a new book club, learning jazz piano, or attempting modern dance, I was always signed up for some sort of group or class.
That’s why I thought I’d love baby classes. Baby yoga? Swimming? Massage? Sensory play? Yes, yes, yes – sign me up! But it turns out, baby classes are not for me.
Before I go on to explain why I’ve become a no-classes advocate, in the sake of fairness let me first list some reasons why going to classes can be good.
The positives about baby classes:
They get you out of the house
Spending all day with a baby is hard work and the hours can just stretch on forever. Classes break up the monotony and mean you have a reason to get changed out of your pyjamas.
Classes can give you some ideas for what to do at home
It can be hard to entertain a baby throughout the long day (see above!). Once they’ve got past the newborn stage of only sleeping and feeding, babies start to need stimulation. If you’ve been to a messy play, baby bonding or sensory fun class, you can replicate some of the activities in your own house.
They help you meet new parent friends
Meeting other people who have a baby of a similar age can be so useful and reassuring. Rather than having to rely on Google to provide answers to your never ending questions, you’re in a room full of people in a similar situation and can ask for advice and realise you’re not the only one who feels like they haven’t a clue what they’re doing.
Classes help your baby get used to noise and socialising
If you don’t have any other family members or friends with young babies, it’s a good way for your baby to get used to other children and also the extra noise and stimulation.
You might just generally enjoy them
You may find that you actually really enjoy singing nursery rhymes in a group of adults!
However, there are a number of negatives:
Feeling the pressure to start classes way too soon
I went to a baby massage class far too early after having my son. I was still in a lot of pain, and having to sit on the floor in a cramped room didn’t do me any good. I remember reading on a forum once that a lady who was recovering from a C-section said she was making her scar worse by trying to lift her baby at a class, but didn’t want to be the odd one out and not lift her child like all the other new mums were doing.
It can also be too early for the baby; I ended up missing a few classes because they were on the same day or day after my son had his injections, and giving a baby a massage after they’ve been stabbed repeatedly with needles is not a good idea.
Baby classes can be expensive! Particularly as for most of them you have to sign up to a block of classes rather than individual ones. You’re bound to miss some from being ill, going on holiday, not wanting to interrupt nap time, or just not being able to face it some days. Considering that a lot of parents are only getting statutory maternity pay, or nothing at all, classes can seem rather costly.
It’s never the right time
I am one of the lucky few who has a baby that naps during the day. My little one needs a nap every two hours after waking, and as long as I get the routine right (sleeping bag goes on, quiet music in the background, quick story) he goes down like clockwork. Although this may sound like the holy grail to some parents, it can be a nightmare if you’re out and about trying to do something.
I took my baby to a sensory class and because of how the timings worked out that day, he was due a nap as soon as the class started. Cue one hour of crying (him, not me, although it was a close call). Not only was he not sleeping, but I was bombarding him with bright lights, loud sounds and just generally a sensory overload. I came away with a grouchy baby, wondering why I’d paid to put myself through that stress.
And it’s not just nap times that can be inconvenient – how many new parents spend most of the class feeding, or realising that a nappy needs changing as soon as you get yourself settled?
I’m here to learn, not have fun!
Despite my early realisation that classes were not for me, I still ended up going to a baby sign language class recently. I reasoned that this wasn’t just an excuse to leave the house, but because I wanted to learn something that I thought would be useful for both me and my baby. The problem is, out of the hour’s class, we probably only do about 20 minutes of learning signs. The rest of it is socialising and playing with the babies – both sound good I know, but I can do that without having to pay for a class.
I don’t go to make new friends; I’m in an extremely lucky position where I have lots of friends who have babies a similar age to my son, so I don’t actually need any more parent friends. It’s hard enough to see all my current friends without creating new friendships (what a terrible thing to moan about, I know).
Losing my identity
This might not be the same everywhere, but I noticed that at a few of the classes I went to, the parents were NEVER asked what their name was, only their baby’s name. I completely get that it’s hard for the class leader to remember both the parents’ and the babies’ names when they have multiple classes a week and new members every term, but it’s nice for the other attendees to be introduced to each other by name. I’m not ready to give up my identity yet and just become So and So’s mum.
The unhealthy comparisons
When you’re in a room of babies and new parents, it’s hard not to compare both yourself and your child. How come little Timmy’s already crawling when he’s a month younger than your baby? Apparently the baby cross the room’s been sleeping through the night for ages – what’s her mum doing that you’re not? The lady next to you (you don’t know her name, just that she’s Emily’s mum) has clean hair, isn’t wearing clothes with sick on AND is wearing make-up. How did she have time to do that? What black magic does she know??
I only have one friend with a baby who doesn’t do classes; all my other new mum friends go to at least one class. We check in with each other regularly to make sure we’re not harming our children by not attending the classes. Will our baby develop slower? Will they have problems socialising later in life? Are we depriving them of joy?
We rationalise that all these different types of baby classes are relatively new, and whole generations of children have grown up to be clever, sociable adults without the help of an expensive “messy play” class. We both love being at home and have enough going on in our lives to keep both ourselves and our kids entertained.
So I’m here to tell you that if you don’t want to go to baby classes, that’s absolutely fine. Enjoy not having a routine, doing something when you want (depending on nap time / feeds / nappy changes!) and saving your pennies. There’s no need to feel guilty. Your baby will be fine, and it will be more enjoyable spending time together doing something you want to do, and not something that you think you have to do.