NEW YORK – Gone are the days when babies were expected to just sit, burp and sleep.
Following in the footsteps of vegetarian diets and aromatherapy for babies, infant-mother exercise classes such as "Baby Yoga," "Baby Massage" and "Soft Gymnastics" are finding a following across the nation.
"It allows me to find a meditative, peaceful place where I can be alone with my baby," said Lisa Moresco, who regularly attends classes with her 1-year-old daughter Sophia. "And it allows the mother to intimately know her baby's body."
Baby exercise instructor Jane Kornbluh said she's seen a 30 percent increase in attendance of her mommy and baby exercise classes in recent years.
"It's a safe and effective postpartum routine" that allows a mom to bond with her new child and get back in shape herself, Kornbluh said.
San Francisco's Natural Resources are offering services such as baby yoga classes, which focus on building strength and flexibility in both mother and child.
Elizabeth Williams-Bassemire, a West Coast pre- and post-natal yoga instructor, incorporates the babies into traditional yoga postures allowing the little ones to get the same health benefits their mothers are gleaning.
Her 75-minute class is meant to enhance physical health through the power of touch.
"The human touch is a marvelous thing," she said. "It is very comforting." Williams-Bassemire encourages mothers to pick up their children, even during meditative breathing exercises.
"The mother stretches the baby different ways," Williams-Bassemire said. "We do a hip opener for the baby's hips while we also do exercises where the baby is lifted up to strengthen to the mother's upper body."
Baby yoga claims to ease colic and digestive problems as well as promote better sleeping patterns and neuromuscular development.
Another trend in baby fitness is "soft gymnastics," which incorporates light gymnastics with a wide range of motion as well as gentle massage. The techniques used are said to promote good posture and breathing rhythm while enabling parents to get to know their child's personality through bonding.
However, in spite of these claims, some wonder if baby exercise is not just another gimmick spawned by the multi-billion dollar fitness industry, this time to introduce the product to the youngest market possible.
"We really recommend that [parents] don't get too actively social with people who can spread infection," warned New York pediatrician Dr. Abraham Green.
Dr. Green remarked that in infants "simple infections can become more complex" and that the risk of injury is high because they have "unsophisticated motor skills."
Betty Wong, senior editor of Parents magazine, said the classes are unnecessary.
"You don't need to join a class [to promote motor skills]" Wong said. "Put your baby on a blanket over the carpeting and let them roll, play and grab toys."
But if you do decide to workout with your baby, proceed with caution. "If baby has a very full stomach, leave Kissing Crunches and Flying Baby for later," bodybybaby.com advises.