Monday, February 10, 2014

Carrying your Baby whilst Walking to Soothe and Calm

By Sue Heron Peadiatric Physiotherapist and Tatty Bumpkin Trainer

The posture for this week in Baby Bumpkin classes is Dolphin. This pose involves carers walking in a relaxed way with their baby (the relaxed walk). A recent study in Japan highlights the importance of just picking your baby up in your arms and taking them for a short walk round the room. Indeed, this may be the best way to calm them.

Baby Bumpkin Dolphin Pose

Researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan (1) have discovered that young infants tend to ‘cooperate’ with their carers whilst they are being carried i.e. infants under 6 months, whist being 'walked and carried' will tend to:
  • Stop crying
  • Move less
  • Lower their heart rate
It seems that the sensations of being held and feeling the movement of their carers against their bodies conbine to create a very effective soothing experience for the baby.

The researchers recruited 12 carers with infants between the age of 1- 6 months, setting  up each infant with a monitor so they could record their heart beat.

The carers were then asked to follow a sequence of moves with their baby for 30 secs at a time. These moves included:
  • Placing their baby in the crib
  • Holding their baby whilst sitting
  • Walking round with their baby
The research team then gathered the information for the awake babies for the period of time when they were being held and then carried. Their results showed that when the mothers stood up and started walking - their babies tended to:
  • Stop moving  their arms and legs so much and hold  themselves still
  • Stop crying
  • Lower their heart beat
Thinking that the lower infant heart rate might have been entirely due to the babies moving and crying less the researchers conducted further experiments and found that this was not the case. They concluded that the reduction in heart rate seemed to happen as a result of another neurological process.

Interestingly the researchers compared the results of these investigations on infant human behaviour whilst being carried with the behaviour of baby mice whilst they were being carried by their mothers. They noted that the baby mice also:

  • Stopped moving
  • Reduced their squeaks
  • Reduced their heart beats
when they were being carried by their mothers!
Armed with this data the researchers went on to look at the role of the senses and areas of the brain in this ‘calm behaviour’ of the 'carried'  baby mice. They concluded that:

  • The sense of touch was important – stimulation of this sense seemed to cause the mice to become still
  • Stimulation of the proprioceptive sense (sense of body awareness) was also important in calming the mice
  • The brain region called the cerebellum was important in orchestrating the calm response.
In addition, the researchers confirmed that this calm response of the baby mice when being carried by their mother also helped the mother i.e. the mother mice were able to carry their baby’s much more effectively and quickly when their babies were still.  Hence the researchers reckoned that this calm response by the infant mice has a role both in survival and in strengthening the bond between the mother and baby. 

In their conclusion the team highlighted that:

  • A short period of carrying (30 secs) could have a calming effect on a young baby following a brief irritation i.e. after being vaccinated or hearing a frightening noise
  • If a baby does carry on crying after the 30 sec walk it is likely that there is a greater underlying cause to their discomfort i.e. the baby is hungry or in pain
  • Knowledge of this soothing effect of being carried whilst being walked by the carer on an infant would be helpful for carers. It would give parents a first line of response when their baby becomes upset for no obvious reason- reducing levels of frustration all round!
  • Parents and professionals could use this calming behaviour, or the lack of it, as an early warning sign that the infant might have issues with being able to process their senses accurately. Children who are later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders often have sensory processing difficulties .

1. Esposito, G. Yoshida, S, et al. Infant Calming by Carrying in Humans and Mice.  Current Biology 2013: vol 23: pp 739–745

For information on your nearest Baby Bumpkin or Tatty Bumpkin class go to  

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Effect of Parental Stress on Babies and Young Children

By Sue Heron Paediatric Physiotherapist and Trainer for Tatty Bumpkin Ltd

There have been several articles in the press this week based on the results of recent research conducted in America on the effect of parental stress on young babies and children. The research certainly does make interesting reading....

Researchers at the University of California recruited 69 mothers and their 12-14 mth old babies and investigated the effect of maternal stress on their infants. 

As predicted, mothers who received negative feedback on a talk they gave (frowns, crossed arms etc.) reported greater decreases in positive emotion and greater increases in negative emotion than did mothers who received either positive feedback on their talk (nods, smiles) or no feedback. The negative feedback group also showed signs of increased cardiac stress.

The infants quickly picked up on this parental stress response i.e. 
  • Infants whose mothers received the negative feedback showed significant increases in heart rate relative to baseline within minutes of being reunited with their mothers.
  • Crucially, the infant's response tracked the mother's response – that is, the greater the mother's stress response, the greater the infant's stress response and this association actually became stronger over time.
In addition, the researchers noted that there are a variety of different pathways through which these stress emotions might be communicated, including odour, vocal tension, and facial expressions. They are now currently investigating the hypothesis that ‘touch’ plays an important role in emotion contagion.

Commenting on the study the lead researcher Sara Waters noted

 "Before infants are verbal and able to express themselves fully, we can overlook how exquisitely attuned they are to the emotional tenor of their caregivers. Your infant may not be able to tell you that you seem stressed or ask you what is wrong, but our work shows that, as soon as she is in your arms, she is picking up on the bodily responses accompanying your emotional state and immediately begins to feel in her own body your own negative emotion."

Well nothing you do not know already – I'm sure! But this research does highlight the importance of Mums, Dads and carers:
  • Becoming more aware of their stress levels and 
  • Taking the time to try and control their stress levels. 
Of course so easy to say but so hard to do - But I think these are two very good reasons for attending a Baby/Tatty Bumpkin class if possible!

In these classes you will get advice on relaxed handling techniques and how to walk in a relaxed way whilst carrying your baby (the ‘relaxed walk’) as well as having the opportunity to relax with your child in a supportive environment.

 Relaxing in Tatty and Baby Bumpkin classes

Find your local Tatty Bumpkin or Baby Bumpkin class at

For the press release on this study see  for the abstract see
Ref "Stress Contagion: Physiological Covariation Between Mothers and Infants" Waters, S. West, T. Berry Mendes, W. Psychological Science. Jan 30th 2014.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

2014 Term 3 Week 5: Tatty Bumpkin's Pose for the Week is Gloomy Cloud!

By Sue Heron – Training Co-ordinator Tatty Bumpkin and Paediatric Physiotherapist

The posture for this week is Gloomy Cloud.

Find your local Tatty or Baby Bumpkin class at and have a go at Gloomy Cloud pose with your baby, toddler or child at home – see details on the pose below.


The Adventure This Week ..

This week Tatty Bumpkin finds herself under a ‘Gloomy Cloud’ as he tells her his sad story, she feels his raindrop tears on her arms and legs.

What’s the matter? Gloomy Cloud is fed up with making everyone sad – he wants to make people laugh instead!

Of course Tatty Bumpkin wants to help and, after a little think, she comes up with a truly awesome plan ..the Gloomy Cloud can turn himself into different shapes .. perhaps he can be a ‘cloud rabbit’ or even a cloud train – that would be really funny!


In the Gloomy Cloud story your child will have the opportunity to: 

1. Practise their breath control and communication skills as they do Gloomy Cloud pose
2. Develop their core stability, to improve their balance, as they do frog and tree poses
3. Develop their early writing skills, by increasing activity in their shoulder muscles, whilst   doing horse and rabbit poses
4. Use gestures or words to express their thoughts i.e.

  • Feeling ‘Gloomy’, ‘Lonely’ and then ‘Happy’ with the Gloomy Cloud
  • Role playing the children telling Gloomy Cloud to ‘go away’ and then ‘being kind’ to him
  • ‘Thinking Hard’ with Tatty Bumpkin
5. Come up with their own ideas on cloud shapes and then share them with the group  
6. Develop their sense of rhythm as they jump to the Tatty Bumpkin Frog song
7. Have fun with their friends – cheering up Gloomy Cloud! Hopping as rabbit shaped clouds, or maybe being cloud trains and boats altogether, 


Gloomy Cloud Pose – Children and Toddlers

Gloomy Cloud!
Happy Cloud or Sunshine!

Description of Pose

Note: It is always best to do Gloomy Cloud pose with your child or toddler so they can copy you; this is especially true if your child is younger. Recent research shows that doing activities together helps the bonding process between parents/carers and their child.
  • Find a comfortable place to sit down and encourage your child to settle down opposite you.
  • Slump your shoulders and make your body really droopy. Do a funny, ‘sad’ face - indeed imagine your whole body is feeling sad! Wait for your child’s response and encourage them to copy your posture and facial expression.
  • Take a deep breath in, puff out your cheeks, and let the air out in a big sigh – just like a Gloomy Cloud - again see if your child will copy you. 
  • Now imagine you are happy; sit or kneel up tall, puff out your chest and smile your biggest smile! Once again encourage your child to follow your lead with a happy face and posture of their own.

Want to Make it Harder? 

Take turns with your child to make different faces in a mirror – as you do so encourage your child to comment on your expressions i.e. “I think that looks like a scary face!” or “That looks like an excited face!”

Other Gloomy Cloud Games

Happy/Sad Cloud peek-a-boo! Younger children - Find a clean handkerchief – this is the ‘cloud’! Hide your face behind the handkerchief. Then say “1, 2, 3 Happy!” as you let the handkerchief drop and smile at your toddler or child. Hide your face once more behind the handkerchief and this time say, “1, 2, 3 Sad!” as you let the handkerchief drop and make a funny ‘sad’ face at your baby. Remember to repeat the game several times as your child will love the repetition.

Cloud Shapes.- Spark your child’s imagination by encouraging them to lie down and look up at clouds the sky. Ask your child what cloud shapes they see – do they see a dinosaur/monster cloud shape? Or maybe one that looks like a space ship or even a cream cake?! Together make up your own adventure story about the cloud shapes you see.

What cloud shapes can you see?!

Why Gloomy Cloud Pose is ‘Good for Me’ - Children and Toddlers

1.Often it is useful for your child or toddler to explore their emotions and realise that they do not have to feel happy all the time.

2. Whilst doing Gloomy Cloud pose with you, your child can:
  • Mimic your facial expressions i.e. ‘smiling’ faces & ‘gloomy, sad’ faces
  • Learn the ‘labels’ for different emotions  i.e. ‘sadness’ or ‘happiness’
  • Take a big breath & imagine their whole body is feeling ‘heavy’ and ‘sad’.
3. By talking about emotions with your child, as part of a game, you will be helping your child to:
  • become more aware of their own feelings & those of others
  • manage their feelings and behaviour better when they do feel upset
  • express their feelings to others more effectively.  
Remember to follow a ‘sad’ face with a ‘happy’ face!


The Happy/Sad Cloud Pose In Lying - Younger Babies


Happy/Sad Clouds ..come play with me!

Description of Pose

This adaptation of Happy/Sad Cloud pose is ideal if your baby is about 4 months or under or is more relaxed whilst lying down.
If your baby is under four months, they will be able to focus on people or objects but not both at the same time. The Happy/Sad Cloud pose will encourage your baby to look at your face and attend to your different facial expressions.

  • Settle your baby on their back on a mat in front of you, take your time so that both you and your baby are relaxed
  • Look at your baby and crouch forward on your forearms so that your face can be close to theirs
  • Gently say your baby’s name and wait for them to gain good eye contact with you -  so you are sure they are looking at you
  • Start by smiling at your baby to be a ‘happy cloud’ and say “Happy” as you smile at them. Give your baby time to respond to you. From about five weeks of age your baby may be smiling more and more, and they might smile in response to your smiles and funny faces!
  • Slowly change your expression and make a funny ‘sad’ face at your baby (not too sad - you do not want to make your baby cry!) to be the sad cloud. As you do your sad expression say, “Sad” to your baby. Again wait for your baby to respond – they may find your ‘sad’ expression funny! Smile again to be a happy cloud and repeat the word “Happy”
  • Do several repetitions of ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ faces with your baby. Remember to give your baby time to respond to your different expressions. Always end with a smile!

The Happy/Sad Cloud Pose In Sitting - Older Babies

Gloomy cloud/ Happy cloud!

If your baby is 4 mos or older they may prefer to do the Happy/Sad Cloud pose in the sitting position.
When you do this activity in sitting with your baby you will be giving them an opportunity to develop both their communication and sitting skills. You can do the Happy/Sad cloud pose with your baby either on your own or with a friend.

If you are doing the Happy/Sad Cloud pose with your baby with the help of a partner:

  • One person supports your baby round their lower body or hips giving them just the right level of support for comfort i.e. if your baby needs more support hold them higher up their body
  • The other person positions themselves directly in front of your baby. Looks at them and calls their name to get their attention
  • Once they have eye contact with your baby the person facing your baby does the happy/sad facial expressions at them whilst saying the name of the expression i.e. they smile and say ‘Happy face’ to your baby then they do a funny ‘sad’ face whilst saying “Sad face!”
  • Repeat the game several times and always finish with a ‘happy’ face!

If you’re doing the Happy/Sad Cloud pose with your baby by yourself:

  • Settle your baby on your thigh so they can easily look at you. If your baby is sitting by themselves position them opposite you with a few cushions placed around them to protect them if they topple over
  • Remember to give your baby just enough support so they feel relaxed i.e. as above – if your baby is younger they may need you to hold them higher up their body – if they are almost sitting by themselves they may only need support round their hips
  • Call your baby’s name to make sure they are looking directly at you. Then once you have your baby’s attention do the happy/sad facial expressions with your baby as described above.
  • Remember to give your baby time to respond after doing each facial expression with them
  • By encouraging your baby to focus on a face whilst they are sitting you will be helping them to develop their sitting balance - as your baby largely depends on their visual sense when they are learning a new skill.

Other Games with The Happy/Sad Cloud Pose for Babies

Copying your baby’s expressions – When your baby changes their facial expression during their day take time to copy what they do e.g. if your baby laughs and gurgles - respond to them by laughing and smiling or if your baby starts to look sad and cry - make a sad face whilst attending to their needs.

Play at being Happy/Sad Clouds through-out the day - During the day, when your face is normally close to your baby’s, grab opportunities to play the Happy/Sad Cloud game e.g.  when you are dressing your baby, changing their nappy or just giving them a cuddle .

Happy/Sad Cloud peek-a-boo!  See above in the section on games ideas with children.

Why Happy/Sad Cloud Pose is Good for You and Your Baby

As you do the Happy/Sad Cloud pose with your baby you will give them a chance to:

1. Develop their close bond with you. Your baby’s soulful gaze is almost a survival reflex as it is specifically designed to gain your attention. It is the start of your baby expressing their love for you as they realise how important you are to them. The first time your baby responds to you with a wonderful smile is a magical moment.  It is their way of saying "I love you."

2. Develop their communication skills. Your baby communicates with you from the moment they are born. By taking the time to get close to your baby, and encouraging them to look at your face, you will be supporting them to:
  • Look closely at people’s faces
  • Attend to different facial expressions and to start to understand what they mean
  • Listen to voices
  • Takes turns
By playing the Happy/Sad Cloud activity, or other ‘people games’, with your baby you will be giving them the chance to develop these valuable communication skills right from the start.

Make it Multi-Sensory, Educational & Fun

In Tatty Bumpkin classes we use unique storylines to make the activities meaningful and to fire the imagination.

All our classes are multi-sensory comprising of:

  • Adapted yoga poses and activities which both stimulate and calm the body senses
  • Dedicated songs and rhythms which are relevant to the stories
  • Bespoke hand-woven props to look at and feel. Tatty Bumpkin has its own range of fairly traded animal props to back up the yoga poses and bring the stories to life. Our teachers are supported to use natural props in the classes which are great to feel as opposed to smooth plastic
We have carefully linked each Tatty Bumpkin to the new 2012 Early Years Foundation Stage framework. Supporting children to learn 'how to learn' - a life long skill 

Find your local Tatty Bumpkin class at