The Forget-Me-Knot Brighton & Hove Baby Massage Blog

posted by on General

So anyone who’s ever been around babies, whether your own or someone else’s, and seen other people interact with their babies, will be aware of the phenomenon that is ‘baby talk’. I am of course referring to the sing-song speech, all the “coochicoochicoo”s and little noises that make the baby smile or giggle, and the “mama”s, “dada”s and “nana”s repeated over and over, as well as the general chitter-chatter of a conversation that is totally one-way and incomprehensible to the baby, and yet a core building block of the bond between parent and child.

Recently I have read about several studies conducted in this field, that have made me dwell on the concept of baby talk, and indeed talking in general. I was pondering on why humans talk – it’s obviously a key form of social interaction, a way of communicating whatever your needs or worries are (amongst many other things), and a way to connect with other people – I just wondered why talking? Body language works well enough for many animals, as do various grunts, growls and other noises – so why did we start talking and why just us – and when?

My next thought process focused on baby talk. More specifically, why do we talk differently to babies than we do adults? What are the benefits to baby of how we interact with them vocally and is this an instinctual thing? And lastly, why does it mostly seem to be women that communicate with babies in this way?

So I hit the internet highway, looking at various science articles and studies, recent press stories, and even part of a documentary to feedback to you on my findings. I found such a wealth of very interesting information, that my blog turned more into a giant essay, that I have since broken down into two separate parts. To follow is a summary of my findings on the history of human speech…

According to the Science Museum, humans are the only living creatures that use words or symbols to represent objects, actions, qualities, feelings and ideas. Although scientists disagree over how human language arose – some think our ancestors started talking as soon as our brains became large and sophisticated enough whilst others think it evolved slowly, from the gestures and sounds we used as apes, either way, many believe that all human languages came from one common language in Africa, and we do know that homo sapiens (our modern human ancestors) were using both words and paintings to describe hunting some 40,000 years ago. There are now over 5,000 languages spoken around the world, although some of these are nearly extinct, and it is thought that our unique sense of ‘self awareness’ (the connection of our experience of the world around us to our minds) – the thing that really makes us human – may have evolved after language gave us an ‘inner voice’ that allowed us to think and make plans.

Language is processed predominantly in the left side of the brain known as the ‘Broca area’ (named after the French physician who discovered it), and, according to a New Scientist article, as right-handed humans tend to process language in their left halves – left-handed people’s brains are “flip-flopped” and some researchers think that lop-sidedness in Broca’s area may help explain why humans alone developed language. When studied in chimps, although Broca’s area still tends to be larger in one half of their brain than the other, and that it kicks into action when they communicate with hand gestures, there were no differences in the number of neurons in the left and right Broca’s area for chimpanzees, as is the case for humans, and the ‘handedness’ of the chimps wasn’t related in any way to the brain region’s symmetry. The proportional size is also very different, as human brains are 3.6 times larger than those of chimpanzees on average, yet Broca’s area is more than 6 times larger in humans. Another nearby part of the brain, known as Brodmann area 47, which is important for extracting meaning from words, may have played an equally important role in humans’ gift for the gab. Lastly, scientists have found areas of our genome implicated in the development of language, shedding light on how networks of genes help to build our language-ready brains, and how variations in related genes can affect a person’s risk of developing a speech disorder – likely due to faulty wiring in the nervous system involving a protein called neurexin.

Asides from brain development, according to Brown University, another unique human evolutional trait that contributed to our use of language were changes to the lengths, shapes and sizes of our throats and mouths. During our evolution (around 100,000 years ago) our mouths started getting smaller and protruding less and our tongue became more flexible, so that it could be controlled more precisely. As the tongue changed, it moved down, pulling the larynx lower, which then led to a longer neck. This, plus the flexibility within the lips, let us form a wide range of sounds that we could not before produce – a way to effectively shape and control sound. In addition, we could also control how we strung the sounds together through our precise breath control. Monkeys can’t control their inhale and exhale the way we can — they can only make short sounds a few seconds long before they have to take another breath, whereas we can control how quickly or slowly our lungs release air – holding back on the lungs with our muscles. We use this breath control when we talk – first guessing the length of the sentence we are going to produce. If we didn’t control our breathing in this way, the pitch would rapidly descend as we got to the end of the lung balloon, and we’d damage our vocal chords. Fusing these sounds together to form words and sentences requires an enormous amount of fine motor control.

A recent study published in Current Biology suggests that infants begin picking up elements of what will be their first language in the womb, and certainly long before their first babble or coo. They claim that, in their last trimester as a foetus, babies are able to memorise sounds from the external world, with a particular sensitivity to melody contour in both music and language. This melody memory then influences the pattern of their cries as a newborn (with a clear difference between that of French and German crying melody patterns according to the research). The study also showed that newborns prefer their mother’s voice over other voices and perceive the emotional content of messages conveyed via intonation contours in maternal speech (a.k.a. “motherese”). Their perceptual preference for the surrounding language and their ability to distinguish between different languages and pitch changes are again based primarily on melody.

The Science Museum also states that we are born able to recognise and speak any language and that newborn babies can tell sounds ‘b’ and ‘p’ apart. They listen to people talking from the time they’re born, and start concentrating on their own language through ‘babbling’ between around six and nine months old – later learning single words, two word speech, and whole sentences around the age of three. By the age of 18 a typical human has learnt around 60,000 different words (or more if you’re Stephen Fry).

To be continued…

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posted by on General

Christmas with a new baby can be magical… seeing things through their eyes for the first time – all the lights and the man in red, the music, the tree, the gifts… overwhelming and mostly incomprehensible for a little one, but magical all the same.

However, there’s a lot of stress that goes along with it. As well as trying to squeeze in seeing the grandparents (generally two sets, sometimes more even), plus other family and friends all in Christmas week, figuring out nap/feeding times around normal Christmas activities, and having to do all the crazy Christmas shopping and prep work with a baby attached, one of the main issues I thought I should address is the ‘present issue’. No that’s not about revelling in the present moment (although that’s often a problem when you’ve not slept in months) but instead refers to the sheer volume of pressies often bought for baby by well-meaning gift-givers (normally the grandparents).

This can often be problematic for many different reasons, but the main three cited over and over are a) you want to be the one giving your child the most presents, b) you don’t want your child to grow up greedy and expecting that many gifts (and taking away from what Christmas is all about), and c) you just don’t have room for that many new toys/clothes/books. However you also don’t want to seem rude or ungrateful, or to deprive your child, so what do you do about it? To follow are a few tips I’ve collated from various parental web sources – some wise words here…

Firstly you could suggest (as tactfully as possible) to the gift-giver(s) in question that less is more, and that perhaps they could spend more money on smaller/fewer items, if they aren’t willing to spend less overall. It’s a sad case in our modern society that we are made to feel that the more we love someone, the more we should spend on them, and also the way to make a child happy is to buy them lots of things – so it’s worth clarifying with them that you don’t feel this way, and don’t want your child to grow up feeling that either.

Another suggestion, again if they’re willing to agree that less is more in terms of quantity (but not spend) then a great idea is for them to put some of the money they would normally spend on presents into savings for the baby instead, that can be added to each year, and will help your child with their future (e.g. University days, or their first car, or foot on the housing ladder) and will then forever appreciate that person – way more than they possibly can at this stage in their young lives.

Alternatively, if they’re adamant they want to give that many gifts, you could try and push them towards buying books and clothes (which are easier to store and more useful overall), plus ‘experiences’ for baby and family such as days out (eg tickets to Winter Wonderlands or a family weekend in Centre Parks), or maybe even a voucher for baby massage or baby play.

If your tactful request for less gifts expenditure and quantity is rejected, then the best suggestion would be to leave a portion of the larger gifts at their house – especially the big/noisy toys, for when they’re babysitting or the whole family are staying over.

And finally, whatever agreement you come to, one thing you could do, to help the child grow up appreciating the generosity of others, is to teach them, not only to say thank you in person, but also to write thank you letters mentioning specific gifts they were given. Obviously as babies this won’t be possible, but as they grow they can start first by drawing thank you cards, and practicing their writing skills as they develop. In addition to this, as a young baby grows out of most things very quickly, be sure to take stock regularly of what they own and give what is now unneeded/unused to charity. That way, your family and friend’s generous giving can help the needy too.

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posted by on General

Baby at Christmas

As the festive season looms and both shops and shoppers prepare themselves for the madness that is Christmas Shopping, I wanted to collate some key tips to help new parents stepping out into busy shopping centres/streets for the first time with babe in arms/buggy (as it’s a whole other world of consumerism, complete with new challenges and dramas that you would never before have considered).  Here’s my top ten list…

  1. Online shop during baby nap-time for either inspiration or actual present purchases. There are a lot of good deals online nowadays and often discount voucher codes for specific retailers if you search for them.  Try and order products by mid December if you’re to stand a chance of receiving everything in time for Christmas though.
  2. If you’re hitting the stores – prepare a list and check it twice! This is where prior online research can help, as well as calls to family and friends in advance to check what they like and sizes etc.  Best to get that all prepped so you know where you need to go and what you need to buy, and try not to deviate.  This helps you plan your route and even to budget better.
  3. When heading out shopping be sure to wear comfy walking shoes and layered clothing for you and baby, and pack the usual baby bag of essentials (for changes, feeds and comforting them) – but on this note be wary of over-packing to give you more free hands for the shopping.
  4. Feed baby in advance of shopping (or in the car when you arrive if it’s cutting it fine timing-wise). The dry air of shopping precincts can often dehydrate babies, so plan for another possible nursing stop during the trip.  It’s also best to shop when they’re well rested, although sometimes you just have to forge ahead regardless.
  5. Use a front carrier/sling instead of a buggy if you can – this makes things easier when trying to navigate around a store with narrow aisles and lots of people. However on the flip-side it means that you don’t have the buggy to help store shopping bags in/on to lighten the load, so you may be more limited in terms of what you can physically carry shopping-wise.
  6. Shop on weekdays (preferably earlier in the week), and first thing in the morning (at shop opening) when it’s quietest. Not only will it mean the chance of a much quicker trip with less queues and people to fight your way through, but less people also equals less germs to expose baby to.  Again, do as much shopping before mid-December as you can to avoid the last-minute rush.
  7. If you know exactly what you want in a specific shop, you can always call ahead and ask them to put it aside for you – meaning you can head straight to the tills when you arrive, rather than having to peruse a whole store to find that one product. Also, if you can’t think of what to get someone, a voucher is always appreciated – and they’re always stocked near tills too.
  8. Bring distractions for baby as they’re unlikely to sleep all the way through given all the noise and bustle, and you’ll need to compensate for not being able to give them your full attention. The best distraction toys are those that clip onto straps on the carrier or buggy (so you’re not bending down to pick them up off the floor all the time).  Try to stop after each shop for a quick moment of eye contact and fun interaction, but if you can also manage to coo (or even quietly sing) to them and stroke their backs as you shop this should keep them comforted.
  9. Remember that you don’t have to cram it all into one day, even though it’s tempting to just get it over and done with.
  10. The very last point to remember is don’t worry about everyone staring when baby does inevitably kick up a fuss at some point. All parents go through it and most will be able to relate.  Just focus on you and baby and doing what you can to calm them down.  If all else fails, head for the hills and try it another day!

Another thing many new parents worry about on baby’s first Christmas is the fact that budgets are often tighter… yet they still want to make it as special as possible for their bundle of joy.  Check out this website for tried and tested money-saving ideas (recommended by parents) on how to do Christmas on a budget:  http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a556419/parents-tips-doing-christmas-on-a-budget.

Also, if you are considering buying Christmas gifts for other new Mummy friends or family members within the Brighton & Hove area, an experience for parent and child, such as baby massage, is a beautiful gift that just keeps on giving.  As it happens, ‘At Home Baby Massage Classes with Forget Me Knot’ do sell e-gift vouchers for each of their packages, and they can be purchased from the comfort of your own home.  You can view and purchase the packages here: http://fmkmassage.co.uk/prices/, and then use the Contact Us form or email address to request that the purchase is presented in a gift voucher form that can be emailed to you.

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posted by on General

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I’ve been thinking recently about the power of touch… I often describe it to the parents I work with as a primal need and, looking at the animal world, even apes preen and groom their young – not just to keep them clean – but to relax them, and to strengthen their bond and maintain friendly ties among family members. Sadly touch gets so misconstrued nowadays that people have become afraid of it in a way. The sex industry and the predators of this world have turned it into something other than what it is at its heart… a need to not feel alone.

I remember being taught Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ back in my school years (oh so long ago), and looking at it again now (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs) I can see how this need for touch would fit into either of the basic needs groupings at the bottom of the pyramid as it fits into being both a ‘physiological’ need and a ‘safety’ need.

With babies especially, touch and close contact with their parents helps to make them feel safe and nurtured, and is also a form of communication (one that is vitally important as it is their first), and a form of bonding with their parents.

Many studies have been conducted within hospitals about the benefits of skin-to-skin contact with newborns (especially premature babies), and how this can have a dramatic positive impact on their survival rate, growth and development, as well as their ability to breastfeed. This practice has been named “Kangaroo Care”, due to its ‘resemblance to marsupial care-giving’. You can read more about this here: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/10/10/kangaroo-mothers-and-the-power-of-touch/.

Moving on from these early days, infant massage can be one of the easiest and loveliest ways to fulfil baby’s need for touch as they grow. Not only can it be integrated into the daily routine with ease, but it’s beneficial to baby’s development (as improved circulation brings extra nourishment to tissue and organs), the ‘touch relaxation’ helps in encouraging sleep, it strengthens that wonderful bond with the parent, and ultimately makes them feel safe and cared for.

Whilst researching this blog I found an interesting article about the need for touch in Psychology Today that discusses the ‘Oxytocin factor’ – a hormone of love and attachment that is released when people feel intimacy (through touch or otherwise), and is especially prevalent in women through pregnancy, birth and child-rearing. On the flip-side, a lack of oxytocin can be particularly detrimental to psychological health in the long-term. You can read this article here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mind-body-connection/201309/why-we-all-need-touch-and-be-touched.

And so, if I can make an appeal to society (or at least to anyone who reads this post), I would like to request that we reclaim the terms ‘massage’ and ‘touch’ to go back to their original meanings – reflecting something cleaner and more loving, and for people to be less scared of the connotations of these words, as touch through massage is a beautiful gift, especially for your baby.

There are various smartphone spy apps available on the market. When one considering security, the vital point which one looks is how to catch a cheating husband. In fact, about 35% of people discussing about how to monitor smartphones. On the other hand, before you own these cellphone spy apps, you have to remember a little bit about catch a cheating spouse. There are few key points about “how to catch your boyfriend cheating“. You can get the info overnight and conveniently by going online. However, there are variant of companies for you to pick where to order cellular phone spy apps. Now you have the green light to build own booming business. However, don’t ignore the importance of using the internet.

posted by on Points of view

In a former life (or part of my life at least) I worked on a client campaign to promote baby bottles. I remember their point of view as being – yes breast may be best, but not everyone is able to do so, in which case bottles are the means to feed your baby, and their particular bottles had teats designed to be beneficial orthodontically (as the baby’s mouth develops and teething starts). And yet there was outrage from certain sectors of the breast is best campaign that we’d ever try to promote an alternative.
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posted by on General

We’re just back from a week away in Majorca. It was a very pleasant and relaxing trip, with one exception being the journey there… not only were we hit by a delayed train to the airport (meaning a last-minute manic and expensive taxi ride) but there was also a delayed flight, a turbulent descent/landing due to heavy thunderstorms, a broken shuttle transfer bus, a driver that repeatedly got lost, and a closed hotel reception waiting the other end. On top of all of that, we were sat behind a family with a screaming child throughout the entire flight and veeery long shuttle bus transfer.
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posted by on General

Today I’m blogging abut a baby’s laugh. It’s a beautiful subject, and makes me smile just writing the words. Baby’s laughter is infectious, and widely adored – especially by the parents.

I was visiting a friend recently, who has an eight month old boy – a very contented little chap who likes to laugh. He showed special delight at Mum’s hiccups – laughing at every single one. This made me wonder about their little laugh and what it’s based on. It’s not a laugh like that of an older child or adult’s – but there’s a connection there… like they’re learning to find fun in everyday things.
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posted by on Musings

As I often say to customers at the start of a session, one of the main benefits of baby massage is bonding – for both parent and infant.

Most first-time parents expect to feel an instant bond with their baby, but the reality for many is that their new life is more of an uphill battle, and that the bond can often take time to form.  However, studies have shown that poor bonding can affect the baby’s long term behaviour, as well as the parent’s stress levels (and the babies can pick up on that stress).
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posted by on General

And so the Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe kicked off with a glorious May Bank Holiday weekend, and a fun and varied Children’s Day Parade.

I love the festival (Fringe especially) and am quite geeky about scanning both guides from front to back covers and drawing up a list of all the freebies and other events that appeal to me, to circulate amongst friends.
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posted by on Baby Trends

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One thing we’ve noticed, to our delight, here at Forget-Me-Knot HQ is that the trend is growing for Dads to want to get involved in the baby massage training too.
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posted by on General

Welcome and thank you for visiting our website. We hope you find all the information you need to make the decision on whether to book with us for your baby massage. We can always provide testimonials, group pricing deals, and any additional information, so please do email us or use the contact form if you have any questions.

This new blog has been started to help keep you abreast of the latest Forget-Me-Knot news, and also any specific baby and baby-massage related findings, musings and discussion points. Our Twitter feed and Facebook page are also regularly updated (especially with local family news reports), so feel free to follow. We welcome any feedback.

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