UPDATED: I’ve been finding more activities and throwing them onto this post since it was first published. -K.
This topic is so very close to my heart that I know I’ll ramble. So if you want to cut to the chase, head on down to the bolds & bullet points. And of course this post–the first of two–is for the new parents, because the truth is, when you’ve got a second or third child, your teensy baby just goes wherever the big kids go. My suggestions fall into two broad categories: 1). Places especially for you & your teensy baby, and 2). Babies can go pretty much anywhere that you would like to go. So, here goes:
Places especially for you & your teensy baby:
There’s something especially wonderful about finding an activity that’s designed especially for you & your new baby. I think first-time motherhood is one of those crazy, difficult times when each person is vulnerable and needy, like new student orientation at college or the very first day of kindergarten. There’s so much emotion and stress involved in becoming a parent that it’s a unique opportunity to bond with people who will be some of your very best friends ever. And you’ll need some new friends.
I say that because, even though it’s wonderful to have friends who already have kids, it’s also crucial to spend time with people who are at your parenting stage. It’s as if parents have very short generations–infancy, toddler, preschool, big kid, tween, teen, empty nest. Just like 6 months in the life of a baby counts for a lot, so too does 6 months in the life of a new parent. Your friends who have kids already are great: they can tell you which shiny baby products aren’t worth buying, and they can talk you off the ledge when you’re feeling overwhelmed. But you also might think that they are perhaps not as vigilant or attentive as they should be, or you might feel frustrated because they seem to have everything under control while you . . . don’t.
When I first had M, I went to the nursing support group at Bellevue every other Tuesday. It was designed for mothers of babies who were 0 to 9 months old. When I first showed up, I was so impressed by these “older” moms who breezed in, popped their sitting-up children on blankets, and started chatting. By contrast, I felt shell-shocked.
The group was supposed to end at noon, and the lactation consultant would gently shoo us out because the room was inevitably reserved for another program. All the new moms would take turns going to the bathroom while we had someone to “keep an eye” on our babies. . . which, of course, sounds silly to any mom who’s had more than one child. And then we’d reluctantly shuffle out, leaning into the weight of those infant car seats. Gosh, it’s sounding more tragic than it was, but. . . it was hard back then. And it was such a comforting place to be. I remember that I kept going until M was turning a year old. No one was going to kick me out of the support group, but I knew, deep down, that our expiration date had passed.
On the last day that I went, I looked around the room at noon as all of the mothers reluctantly gathered up their burp cloths and car keys and fake car keys. Impulsively, I asked if anyone wanted to come to my house for lunch. The relief was palpable. We caravanned–I lived very close–and 8 or 10 women piled themselves and their babies onto my living room floor. I ordered from Pizza Hut. And as I ran around passing out cups of water and paper napkins, I realized that I’d become one of those easy-breezy mothers. It clicked, then, that it wasn’t that those mothers were extraordinary. It was just that they, and now I, had made it through that first storm and passed into the next generation of parenthood.
So, if you’ve got a teensy baby, where are you going to find mothers who are in your “generation”?
You might not think of yourself as the “support group type”, but it’s worth a try. They’re free, you don’t have to plan ahead too far, and if you think about it, you probably have some questions that you’d like to ask somebody. So give a support group a shot–you don’t have to go twice.
- That Bellevue nursing group still meets on the 2nd & 4th Tuesdays of the month.
- Bellevue also has a postpartum depression support group called “Out of the Blue“. Call their social worker’s office at 347-3399 for more information.
- La Leche League supports breastfeeding moms. There are chapters for Schenectady, Albany, Rensselaer, & Saratoga counties as well as a Troy site. These websites aren’t super-helpful, so pick a name & number from the website and call for the scoop. My friend who works with Schenectady LLL confirmed that the regular meetings do, in fact, meet every third Wednesday morning (see link for details), and that they’ll be raffling off baby slings in April to people who attend events and/or buy raffle tickets.
- Postpartum.net can connect you to a Postpartum Depression support group.
- The Family Life Center at Albany has a “Mother to Mother” group. It also has an occasional “babywearing” class where you can try a variety of slings and carriers.
- St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy has a Moms Supporting Moms group that meets once a month on Monday mornings.
- Sling Babies can help you find the right sling, plus they have monthly meetings to get to know other babywearers.
Most local libraries do storytimes for very specific age groups, and for your purposes, that’s really good. Do a little research ahead of time, because pre-registration is required for many. There are multiple branches , so you might try a couple of different destinations, especially if you don’t get a great vibe from your first place.
- Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library Storytimes
- Guilderland Library Storytimes
- Albany Public Library
- Schenectady Public Library
You might not feel particularly swimsuit-ready, but classes where you take your baby into the water with you are pretty common, and this time of year it’s a nice change of pace.
- The Schenectady JCC has swimming lessons for babies 6 months and older.
- Various branches of the YMCA of the Capital District have swimming lessons for parent & baby beginning at 6 months old.
- I also found an infant swimming instructor in Troy–looks like it will cost a bit more.
Yoga with Baby Classes
- Cathy Prescott has Mom & Baby yoga classes and teaches at several locations. This website is a bit out of date, but her links and email are still current.
- The Albany JCC has a Mom & Baby yoga class.
- Orenda in Guilderland also has Itsy-Bitsy yoga classes.
- Breathing Room has a Baby and Me yoga class.
More classes for parents and new babies
There’s a huge variety of classes that you can take. Maybe you’re feeling guilty about spending the money if you’re not currently working for pay. Consider it an investment in your sanity.
- Gatesway Health & Massage in Colonie has infant massage classes.
- The Center for Women’s Wellness in Latham has a Post-Natal Fitness class for moms with their infants, and it even incorporates infant massage. It’s designed for moms with babies 0 to 6 months old.
- The Southern Saratoga YMCA has a Stroller Club spring through fall for moms of children 2 mos. to 3 1/2 years.
- The Language Learning Institute has a Mommy & Me French class for kids aged 2 months to 4 years and a caregiver.
- Tumbling Tykes has classes specifically for 6-18 month old babies as well as for other children.
- Albany Med has a class on Breastfeeding and Returning to Work.
Be Assertive and form your own playgroup
This is exactly the sort of thing I was generally too shy for, but if you’re cooler than me, go nuts.
- If you’re reading this while still pregnant, notice which moms you like at your childbirth or prenatal classes and try to chat them up. Or, if you like most of the group, ask in class if groups ever have a post-birth reunion. You can also ask if you can post a note on the bulletin board at your mid-wife or ob-gyn’s, you know, like, “Baby Due in February or close to it? Email or call Katie if you’d like to join a playgroup.”
- Join a moms’ group (there are some listed on the links page) and call people with children your age to set up a playgroup, or post to 518 Moms.
- Keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to talk to people you see. I used to run outside to say hello when I saw women with strollers walk by my house. I was approached by another mom in the grocery store–we had a playdate, and now we’re class mothers together.
Hopefully, at least one of these activities sounds to you like it’s worth trying. If it’s a class that you have to pay for, ask if you can take try it once for free. Remember, the activity itself is largely a means to an end–getting you out of the house and in touch with some other new moms is the key. But, meanwhile, keep in mind that various activities will attract vastly different crowds. So, for example, if roll your eyes at organic food & holistic medicine, your peeps won’t be hanging out at the infant massage class. And if you invest in a particularly expensive class, you might find yourself in a crowd of snotty mommies.
One last piece of advice: be prepared to piggyback outings. If you’ve got a 10:30 am class, be sure to bring along cash & extra baby necessities so that you’ll have the freedom to join someone (or ask someone! what can it hurt?) to go to lunch afterwards. When M was teensy I was so excited when the mommy I liked from moms’ group asked if I wanted to come out to lunch–and then at the restaurant I realized that I’d left home without a wallet. Since then hundreds of dollars have been loaned back and forth between us, but the first time, I was mortified.
And, if you’re an experienced mom and you had the patience to skim through this, please add ideas that I’ve missed to the comments or send this along to families who are expecting. And thanks to M & C for helping to brainstorm ideas.