‘It’s important for mums to look after themselves’

Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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Up in the night for the fourth time and feeling the exhaustion of being a new mum, Jana Whitfield thought how wonderful it would be to relax in the French sunshine.

In a scene familiar to many, she’d been woken four times a night for the past 10, was feeling stressed and tired and began thinking of more tranquil settings.

(L-r) Jana Whitfield with son James, eight months, and Megan De Kok with daughter Aprille, eight months. Picture: Paul Jacobs (132587-1)

(L-r) Jana Whitfield with son James, eight months, and Megan De Kok with daughter Aprille, eight months. Picture: Paul Jacobs (132587-1)

The next day Jana realised that most of the mums at her baby yoga class were facing similar problems and challenges – and it was then that she hit upon an idea.

What if there was an opportunity for women to get away with their babies, soak up the sun in a gorgeous setting, have time to gather their energy and strength and be looked after while caring for their young ones?

With her head full of pools, terraces, rolling countryside and utter peace, Jana excitedly phoned friend and baby yoga instructor Megan De Kok.

And now her dream is becoming reality as the mums work on their new business idea – baby yoga breaks in a beautiful French villa.

Jana, who is married to Geoff and is mum to eight-month-old James, says: ‘I noticed when I had James that everything became stressful.’

She grins at the understatement and continues: ‘It can be a difficult time for a lot of people – and it was January, February, March, very grey and cold.

‘We have two villas in France and I thought how everything feels better in the sunshine.’

But the concept goes far beyond a holiday in the sun.

It’s a chance for mums, possibly grandmothers and babies (and dads are welcome too) to spend some quality time together and gather strength for the pressures of life and work.

They’ll relax with other families, learn baby yoga and the associated benefits, eat tasty, nutritious food and with access to a babysitting service, spend some time looking after themselves.

Megan, who is married to Stefan and mum to eight-month-old Aprille and four-year-old Violet, says: ‘There is so much pressure on mums to be up and out, getting fit and doing everything, straight after having a baby.

‘Of course there is going to be pressure, but it’s so important for mums to look after themselves as well as their baby.

‘Mums feel they have to be up and in the shops that day and some people get really low.’

Jana adds: ‘If you’re relaxed as a mum then I’m sure you’re child is more relaxed so it benefits everyone.

The setting for the baby yoga breaks – which will run next year – is a villa near Avignon in the South of France.

It enjoys a Mediterranean climate and is surrounded by pine trees and looks over valleys beyond.

Megan, who lives in Fareham, and Jana, from Bursledon, hope the baby yoga classes will take place on a terrace near the swimming pool.

It was at baby yoga classes that the business partners met for the first time in January.

Jana hoped she would benefit from instructor Megan’s sessions – which are held in Fareham, Southampton and Waterlooville – and she hasn’t been disappointed.

‘James was crawling quite early and he’s very mobile. I also think he’s quite a relaxed baby and I’m sure the yoga has helped.’

Baby yoga has been gaining popularity over the past few years and now there are many classes available.

Megan includes gentle baby massage, stretches for mums and then stretches and moves for mum and baby in her class.

Megan and Jana demonstrate a swinging exercise with the babies, accompanied by rhymes and songs. With smiles on their faces, James and Aprille are clearly loving it.

Stretches, which include touching baby’s hands with toes, are very gently but thought to promote

body awareness, flexibility and bonding between parent and child.

Jana and James have recently been through a period of sleep regression. This is a common problem when babies are at certain stages of development and has child and parent up through the night.

But she says baby yoga has helped. The sessions also go through a series of holds that soothe the child.

It was during that time that she started mulling the villa idea.

‘The idea is to create an environment where mums can focus on themselves and their babies and they’re not worrying about the cooking and everything else.’

Jane and Megan, both in their 30s, says dads are welcome.

But they love the idea of baby, mum and grandmother spending time together..

‘Mums tend to worry about their daughters and are always asking if there is anything they can do to help,’ says Jana.

‘It’s such a precious time and goes by so quickly that we feel it would be lovely to have these three people together.’

As for these two mums, friends and now business partners, they’re extremely excited about their idea.

‘I think it’s a fantastic concept and something really special for families,’ says Megan.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO ABROAD...

The French villa breaks promise to be a lovely treat for mums who have access to them.

But for those who can’t stretch to a spell in the sun, there is still the option of baby yoga sessions here in the UK.

The practice has become extremely popular, with many believing it can help with physical development.

Megan says the obvious advantages of the sessions are that babies go away more relaxed and ready to sleep and mums are often smiling.

‘It helps with sleep. There’s lots of communication and interaction between mum and baby and the movement, songs and rhymes make everyone feel relaxed,’ she says.

‘We also do some baby massage, which of course is relaxing.’

It is also thought baby yoga could develop the senses, alleviate symptoms of some common ailments and strengthen the muscles.

It certainly helps mums, says Megan. ‘I’ve had people coming to the classes who are obviously feeling quite low and after six weeks you notice a difference.’

She includes post-natal yoga stretches for the adults in her classes.

And of course the sessions are very sociable, allowing mums to meet and perhaps form friendships.

Megan holds classes in Whiteley, Southampton, Waterlooville and Emsworth. Visit bibblebubble.com. There is also a Facebook page.

For information on the baby yoga villa retreats, visit villaholidayfrance.com.