Pediatric Occupational Therapist Provides A New Twist On Baby Yoga

Northwestern Medicine
Women's Health June 09, 2019

Wheaton, IL – Babies are often described as “natural yogis.” They have the tendency to do child’s pose, happy baby, cobra, plank and downward dog all on their own. A new class offered through Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital is using yoga to create a unique bonding experience for parents and their babies. 

“My baby yoga class is different from others out there,” says Patti Ideran, OTR/L, CEIM, a pediatric occupational therapist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, who is also a certified educator of infant massage and a certified instructor of baby and toddler yoga. “My class is about bonding with the baby. We do stretches, lots of tummy time and high-energy activities to help with the baby’s developmental path. I really look at this class as preventative medicine.”

A typical class starts off with an intention, followed by a centering activity which helps parents bring attention to the present moment – this could include infant massage or a simple song. Then the class moves into poses, stretches and movements on the baby’s back and tummy. Higher-energy poses are also done with the parent carrying the child. Class ends with a little stretch and relaxation for the parents.

“We call this generation of babies ‘container babies’ because they are often in pieces of equipment such as walkers, bouncy seats, strollers and car seats. Infant massage and baby yoga get the babies on the floor for play and interaction with their parents,” says Ideran. “I love the relaxation part at the end of class because moms and dads rarely get relaxation time – even if it’s only for five minutes.”   

After giving birth to their daughters at Central DuPage Hospital, Susan Korver and Amy Casoglos, both from Wheaton, Illinois, enrolled their 11-week-old daughters in Ideran’s baby yoga classes. The age range for babies to participate is six weeks to pre-crawling. All poses are modified for infants who don’t quite have good head control, or older babies who are almost sitting. Every class has a new agenda, so parents learn new activities each week.

“Before starting baby yoga, my daughter Mia wasn’t very strong on tummy time. But now, her posture has improved and she learned how to lift her head. It’s been so much fun to watch her evolve,” says Casoglos.

“I really wanted an activity to bond with my daughter Gracelyn,” says Korver. “Not only has it been fun to do stretches and tummy time together, but Patti also showed me techniques to help Gracelyn with her fussiness and colic.”

Ideran has decades of experience working with fussy babies. As a pediatric occupational therapist, she works with parents and their newborns to help regulate sleeping and feeding patterns and significantly reduce colic. She teaches babies different ways to self-calm, and shows parents how to observe their child’s tired and hunger cues.

“Patti is often referred to as the ‘baby whisperer’ because of her expertise with fussy and colicky babies,” says Amy Wolfinger, lead physical therapist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.  

Ideran says benefits of her baby yoga classes include:

  • Yoga poses (especially tummy time) help support the child’s developmental path

  • Ideran monitors the baby for developmental delays, colic, feeding problems, plagiocephaly or torticollis (which sometimes results in the child wearing a helmet), and can refer them to an appropriate professional to help address the issue

  • Provides parents and babies with undivided attention to help with parental attachment and bonding (no phones, running errands, television, etc.)

  • Teaches parents how to “play” with their babies and have fun one-on-one time

  • For parents who are feeling isolated or alone, the class introduces them to other parents in the community

“As moms, we’re always busy caring for our children,” says Casoglos. “But what’s lacking is how to play and have a relaxing time together. Baby yoga gives me an outlet to do both of those things. It’s also a reminder to my daughter that I’m here for more than just diaper changes and feedings.”

“The gifts Patti provides are invaluable,” adds Korver. “Having a yoga instructor like her is truly amazing. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who is enjoying class more – the babies or the parents.”

Baby yoga is offered on Fridays at 11:15 a.m. in the lower level conference room of Northwestern Medicine St. Charles, located at 2900 Foxfield Road. The six-week session costs $60. To register, please call 630.933.4234.

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