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With the car packed to the brim with stock for the shop we set off on a cold Saturday morning for a session with a difference...the two groups were combined and there was going to be no babies.


“there is a reason why I have asked to arrive without your children this week” explains Monja “it is so we can spend more time on the technique of tapping & squeezing and transitioning. we are going to practice on each other so you know what it feels like, especially as the 2nd group doesn’t have much opportunity to practice with their older children”

“so how does it feel to be here without your babies?” asks Monja

“FREE”

was a typical response


“to start off with we are going to do a body scan” explains Monja “so you can bring attention to yourself” encouraging everyone to lay on their backs “now close your eyes and observe the contact you are making with the floor and notice if anything is highlighted, any stiffness or pain”

“now bring your attention to your feet and notice if there is any difference in sensations as you move up your ankles to your calves, noticing how they touch the floor then up to the knee, thighs into your pelvis, what sort of contact is the pelvis making with the floor. next notice the spine and the way it forms from the pelvis, the lower back, how is that touching and now travel up to the upper back and shoulders. now notice your arms, the neck and the back of your head”

“next bring your attention to your breathing especially in the belly, if it is tense then it needs to be soft. If a baby has digestive issues it is quite often tension in the stomach then tapping and squeezing will help to ease it. again if the lips and jaw are tight this is caused by tension and will inhibit their eating” informs Monja.

“now observe how are you feeling, checking in with your body parts, when we are in touch with our bodies, we are in touch with ourselves. the floor is a good way of giving us feedback as to how we are feeling” she concludes. “babies need to be aware of their body parts from a young age to help with Gross and Fine Motor Skills”

As the scan is coming to an end she points out “I can already see a change in your breathing, which is good”. Now Monja encourages everyone to slowly open their eyes and eventually come to sit, “how are you feeling” she enquires.

“very relaxed, my back was heavy”

“tension in my shoulders”

“amazing, it relaxed my whole body, I could feel my left leg was stiff”

“I could hear and feel my heart beating”

were typical responses

“areas where you are experiencing tension and stiffness, if tapped and squeezed you will then notice a difference, so let’s try it on each other” announces Monja.

With everyone now paired up with one lying on her back, Monja then started the tapping demonstration on a mother. “with a soft hand, using all the fingers allow the arm to fall”. Starting at the shoulder the mothers tapped their way through the body. Down the whole arm top and side then the ribs, belly, pelvis to the legs top and side except for the knee cap to the feet including the top, toes and sole then all the way back to the shoulder adding the chest, this needed to be a softer touch.

“how did that feel” enquired Monja

“I could feel a warmth coming through”

“a tingling feeling”

were typical responses.


Still paired up and lying on their backs Monja demonstrated how to squeeze. “with both hands you now squeeze the muscle towards the bone, holding it for a bit pushing it towards the floor” she explains.

Starting at the shoulder she cupped it with her hands from both sides, then moving down the arm to the fist and squeezing, releasing the fingers which were then individually squeezed. Returning up the arm the hands were placed on the chest, either side of the breast and pressed. Moving down one hand was place on the ribs, the other on the pelvis and the pressure was applied towards each other and towards the floor. The process was repeated with the hands now on the pelvis and thigh, the hands were now moved either side of the thigh and squeezed all the way down the leg, inside and out, with the exception of the knee cap again. When the foot was reached one hand was placed on top the other on the sole and squeezed. Each individual toe was then separated, pulled, bent and squeezed.

“how did that feel” enquired Monja

“could feel being pressed into the ground”

“comfortable”

were typical responses.


Next the paired women rolled onto their stomachs to be tapped and squeezed “when I lay on my front to sleep I have a pain in my breasts” exclaimed one mother. Monja then demonstrated if you pull the knee up to level with the pelvis on the same side as the head is turned then it will relieve the pressure.

The same techniques were demonstrated in how to tap and squeeze the back as the front adding the ribs were squeezed towards the spine also the elbows towards the floor.

“how did that feel” enquired Monja

“my blood is flowing”

“feels like being in a spa, my tension is going away”

were typical responses.


Monja now explains “these techniques are important as the child needs to feel the pelvis to crawl and sit, pressing the ribs towards the spine softens them and enables the baby to roll easier and pressing the elbows into the floor strengthens them so they can lift their head”

“when tapping if your child is being hyperactive then tap slower to calm them down” Monja points out.

With the mothers all sitting together they have an open conversation “an important milestone for a baby aged 0 – 3 months is lifting its head. it is at this age the heaviest part of the body and plenty of “tummy time” is needed. the head always needs to be supported when picking them up” Monja mentions “if they sit up to early and then fall over they will get a fright and will be less likely to try again” she concludes.

“it is important to tap and squeeze your babies often as it softens the body making it easier to transition, if they are stiff they can’t move their head, then it becomes difficult”

“babies push into the floor to get a reaction from their muscles which strengthens them and this is important” Monja ends.

The mothers now enjoyed their warming refreshments before leaving for home.

This week’s journey was dampened with the news that another guest from a different NPO was unable to attend but never less with a packed car we set off.


After the 5 minutes relax in silence, Monja asked the mothers of both groups what has happened to them and their babies during the past week.

“my baby has its 1st tooth”

“you remember “Mbali” was not eating correctly” mentions “Rebecca”, “well I am now giving her soft porridge and her appetite has improved”

“I lost my phone” says a sad “Maude”, a new mother

“if you are feeling sad a baby can notice this, which is not good” stresses Monja “stress is part of life and it is how we manage and deal with it affects are relationships, even with your children”, “this is an example of connecting with ourselves”, “we are sharing and connecting with each other, which is good” concludes Monja.

Both groups were now asked if they notice anything different over the week about their children

“making sounds”

“not sleeping as unwell”

“saying mamma & dada”

“holding a toy”

“rolling by herself”

“likes cars as he was driven in one”

were typical replies

Both conversations tied in nicely with this week’s theme, connecting with your baby.


The 1st group now laid their babies on the floor in a circle and stared to rub their chests “this is engaging and making a connection” points out Monja. A session of tapping and squeezing followed and with the sounds they were making, the infants enjoyed it.

Next Monja demonstrated the transition from back to belly and belly to back. Whichever way the baby’s head is facing the opposite leg is bent, with the knee pointing to the ceiling and is then moved across the other knee so that the foot can touch the floor, in this position she tapped and rubbed the child’s back. The foot that is touching the floor now can be rubbed along the floor and then holding that leg, slide it downwards so the baby turns, eventually onto its belly. The arm that is stuck under the armpit can be released by raising the pelvis on the same side, until it is freed.

“the addition I want to show you today is to encourage the baby’s to roll to their the backs by themselves” advised Monja. With the children on their bellies a leg was moved upwards, towards the heads along the ground, parallel to the pelvis. This was done, alternating the legs “by doing so this strengthens the back and pelvis ready for crawling” Monja concludes, eventually the children rolled over.

In pairs the mothers now practised both techniques before transition on each other, whilst the babies played, in order they could understand what it feels like. Monja then demonstrated both techniques along with the transition on a mother, whist still in pairs the mothers followed suit, again so they know what it feels like.

The room had become boisterous so Monja proposed singing to calm the group down. The mothers started loudly which only fuelled the situation. “the tone and the loudness of your voice will be picked up by your baby and they will react to it, be soft and they will respond” advises Monja.

A long overdue 3 minutes relax in silence was observed to end the session.


The 2nd group also started with tapping and squeezing. A new baby called “luyanda” joined this week. He was a little hesitant when Monja approached him, “it takes a bit of time to build up trust with someone he has never met before” remarked Monja. She then proceeded to tap and squeeze his mother “if he seems me doing it to you he will assume it is ok and eventually he will mimic”, which he did. After that he was more receptive to Monja, allowing her to demonstrate on his arms and legs.

Continuing with this groups theme of connection through play a slide was brought out for them to use. “at this age climbing is all about exploration and a child learns through curiosity” points out Monja “with no stimulation they will just be there” she concludes. At first the mothers were told “just observe, if they climb up the steps see how they climb, if they struggle then assist”. “Clinton” who is very adventurous climbed up immediately but could not work out how to slide, he was helped out by Monja. She then showed him the technique using a doll, which he mimicked after a few attempts. The other children were a little more hesitant so Monja encouraged their mothers to crawl under the slide, the babies soon followed, which was playful. Once they had enough courage they soon started to climb the steps and wanted to slide, mimicking “Clinton”. “you must create a playful situation or they will not want to participate” notes Monja.

To calm down, all now sung songs.

Just before the 3 minutes relax in silence Monja demonstrated on a doll where the nose, eyes, ears and mouth were. On each child she did the same, touching their faces “to turn this into a game use a mirror when doing so, saying the name of the parts as you touch” said Monja.

Another crisp Johannesburg morning greeted us as we waited for our special guest to arrive who was following us to Kliptown.

Judith, one of HBF’s directors had been wanting to see “what happens on the ground” for some time. Monja joined her and we drove in convoy, the two of them catching up on news along the way.

Traffic was heavier than usual and we arrived dead on 10 o’clock with some of the ladies already waiting for us, we hurriedly set up for the morning ahead.

Judith introduced herself and spoke to the 1st group explaining her involvement in HBF. “this work is important to the community and that is why I came on board as a director” explained Judith, “I also have children and as a young mother you tend to concentrate on feeding, bathing, dressing and changing your baby and therefore seldom do you think of this kind of teaching...but I wish I had” she concludes, pointing out that the NPO will be two years old in September.

The mothers then in turn introduced themselves, commenting on what they have learnt so far during the project.

Judith happily joined in with all of the activities of the 1st group which continued with the theme of connect with your baby. Laying the babies again on their backs the mothers rubbed the bellies, tapped & squeezed bent & extended legs, stomped feet whilst talking & telling their children what they were doing.

Monja then asked the group “who has been practising what you have been learning”. “Angela” said she had been transitioning “Princess” which she demonstrated correctly, from back to belly and then returning to her back.

The whole group now positioned themselves in a circle and Monja demonstrated again how to transition. When the babies where on the stomachs they could all see each other and responded with excitement with their heads lifted.

“being on their bellies strengthens the back which helps with developing lifting of the head and later creeping and crawling” noted Monja. “when should my baby be ready to crawl” asks a mother, “after 7 or 8 months” replied Monja.

Monja now demonstrated how to pick up a baby “make sure that they are always rounded, if you then place them over your shoulder bend their knees, this keeps flexibility in the spine otherwise it becomes stiff, tapping and squeezing also elevates the stiffness”

About this time again the babies seemed to get restless so they were picked up correctly and a circle of mothers stomping their feet whilst singing ensued to calm them down.

As always this had the desired effect, the mothers then could be paired up and tap & squeeze each other’s legs one at a time, the arms had been attended too the previous week.

This was the first time Judith had experienced this “the other leg feels cold and stiff, where as the leg that was worked on feels warm, relaxed, supple and I am more aware of it”

To end the session both groups observed the 3 minutes relax in silence.

“practicing tapping and squeezing whilst transitioning your baby is an important part of the practice and has to be incorporated as part of a daily routine” concludes Monja.


Unfortunately Judith could not stay to meet the 2nd group but after the 5 minutes relax in silence (observed by both groups) a recap of tapping and squeezing started, with the older children joining in, in their own way. Special attention this week was given to the toes, counting each one when squeezed.

Last week’s homework for the mothers was to think up games to play during the session. The next portion of the morning was full of fun and laughter by all as they played “horsey horsey”, “where is the baby” and sang & acted out “ring a ring of roses” plus danced to music from a cell phone.

Monja brought some donated rubber balls with her so next they played “pass the parcel” with one, the children wanting to mimic soon joined in. When the mothers started throwing balls at each other again the kids started doing the same. Next a clean medium sized bin was found and the balls were placed/thrown/rolled into it, then emptied.

Monja had also brought balls that had rubber spikes, giving some texture. The children were encouraged to rub their feet and hands over them, much to their amazement. A game of tidying up the balls ended that part.

Wooden blocks were now produced. “when learning how to stack the blocks show your children how to stack softly as well as slowly” Monja demonstrates which the kids seemed to grasp. The mums then embarked on a competition between them as to who could build the biggest building with their child, with more laughter.

To encourage exploration Monja placed blocks on the seat of a chair, the children were very curious.

The final game of the day was to pack the blocks away.

When asked by Monja how today’s session was, a typical reply was “fun, like being in a gym” was a typical reply.


“stacking games enhances fine motor skills which is important in early development” concludes Monja