Samantha Chater of Babistic Baby and You was one of the first people to take an “Acorn” sponsorship package for the Growing Families conference, and has been a consistent supporter of what we are trying to do with this October’s not-for-profit event in Manchester. We have a number of friends and contacts in common so I was keen to meet with Samantha and find out more about her business and her own parenting journey. I was expecting to discover a lot about her background, skills and the courses she offers, but I didn’t think it would be relevant to me personally. After all, my children and now 5 ½ and nearly 3. How wrong I was…….
Samantha lives in Timperley with her husband Dave and six-year-old son Dominic. She started her professional life in Performing Arts, and trained in Massage and Reflexology ten years ago whilst living down in London. She was doing Performing Arts work alongside other jobs, juggling a number of projects including teaching baby gym, music classes and toddler classes. Samantha eventually gave up the Performing Arts when she had Dominic, and at that time did a bit of baby massage with him, attending a class with a friend in the hope that it would help with Dominic’s colic. The course was from the International Association of Infant Massage, and Samantha says it all connected back to her own training in holistic health. “It felt like a calling, I did the IAIM training straight away when Dominic was only four months old.” Babistic Baby and You went live in May 2011, when Dominic was less than a year old.
The baby massage training fitted in with Samantha’s own ethos of parenting, and she went on to specialise in reflexology for maternity, postnatal and baby, and baby yoga. Samantha says there was a “buzz” about hypnobirthing and that felt like the perfect next step. She trained in the Mongan Method originally, but when Samantha and her family moved to Manchester she found the Wise Hippo Hypnobirthing Programme. This was recommended to her by Suzy Ashworth, a neighbour from London who had been a case study for Samantha’s training in baby massage. Samantha fast-tracked the Wise Hippo training, having already trained in the Mongan method, and then put it all together in one course for Babistic Baby and You. “The rest is history”.
Classes provided by Babistic Baby and You provide continuity for families through pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. Samantha takes a non-judgemental approach – she wants to provide useful tools for families, rather than a strict agenda of what they “should” or should not do. It was her husband Dave who came up with the name “Babistic” as an amalgam of “baby” and “holistic”, and the website styles the classes “for bump, birth and beyond.” Baby reflexology and Baby yoga are also part of the Babistic Baby All in One course – giving parents so many tools with which to bond with and help their children.
So what does Samantha feel are the things that new mums need the most?
“To feel a connection with others, to feel like they are not alone. Social media can help with that – it can also be a hindrance! I always tell parents not to get involved in parenting debates online.
It is important for mums to have the tools and techniques for getting to know their baby, and helping baby with any problems he or she might encounter, such as colic. Bonding is an ongoing process, and sometimes parental expectations can be unhelpful. I encourage guilt-free parenting in a supportive, safe and non-judgemental environment. Empowering parents to know that they are the expert on their baby, and that one size does not fit all.”
What about new babies, what are their most important needs?
“To be listened to. Stop, don’t rush in: babies are all different and it is important as parents that we are led by baby, by what they are communicating to us. If we know what is normal and have realistic expectations, we can watch for their personal cues and tune in to our children. Babistic techniques help parents to get to know their baby – we discuss respect for baby’s needs, the importance to baby of having his or her needs met; we talk about allowing baby to give permission and to feel valued. Newborn babies are fully aware human beings. They have the right to say yes or no to any technique that we wish to try with them.”
Do new dads tend to get involved as well?
“I encourage mums to share the techniques with their partners so that dad can get involved if it’s his thing. It has got to be something you want to give. I think it’s important to let dads find their own way. A child will have different expectations of each carer, and that’s okay. Dads can make mistakes and that’s okay too. They need to build their confidence.
The same goes for grandparents – if they want to get involved and try out the techniques that’s great! I have a few Nanas attending my classes. It is great if grandparents can understand the baby led fundamentals.”
Growing Families: Facts, Fiction and Other Stuff is very much focused on the postnatal period and the early days with baby. What was the hardest part of the “fourth trimester” for Samantha?
“Colic kicked in for Dominic when he was two or three weeks old. It was hard. I felt helpless and angry. I couldn’t help my baby. My husband and I became snappy with one another because we were so exhausted. Breastfeeding was hard as well. I thought it would be easy but it wasn’t. I expressed for as long as I could, but not being able to breastfeed was my biggest disappointment of that time.
At the time I didn’t get offered the right type of support – better support may have saved our breastfeeding journey. Through the knowledge I have gained over the years I am now able to signpost new mums to excellent support in the area.”
What has Samantha learned since becoming a mother?
“Patience! Some things I thought were important before I had Dominic are not important now. I have learned to be mindful and in the moment, and not to waste those lovely opportunities – although I am not always successful with that!”
In discussing all of the techniques with Samantha we inevitably discussed my own parenting experiences with Edward and David, my regrets over how little I was able to hold David when he was first born, and the fact that I used to give Edward a massage every night when he was a baby but I haven’t done anything like that since. Samantha discussed how massage can be reciprocal, now the children are older they can learn techniques to use on me and on each other, as well as deciding whether they would like a massage themselves. We talked about how David in particular likes to be in control, no doubt due to how many medical procedures he had when tiny, so may not appreciate massage, but might like to massage others. As always, it has to be child-led.
Samantha recommended the book “Once Upon a Touch”, storytelling massage for children. http://www.storymassage.co.uk/resources/ Talking to her encouraged me to re-connect with touch and bonding with my children, and to remember the benefits that baby massage had for Edward and for me. It seems that it is never too late to tune in.