Feature on alternative mothering and support networks.
Sarah Brassard of Baltic wanted to network with other parents who take a slightly alternative approach to raising children.
Gretchen Lally of Waterford wanted her son to be able to ease into learning to walk.
Now, both women and their children are taking classes at a new business in Norwich aimed at helping parents bond better with their babies.
“When I had my son, I didn’t have a network of friends, and I had just moved to Norwich. My mom had passed away, so I was mothering without a mother,” said Amy Camassar of Norwich, one of three partners who opened Papoose, a new family learning center in Norwich.
“I want to be there for mothers so that they have an easier time than I had it,” she said.
Camassar and her partners, Holly Salegna and Salegna’s mother, Carol Pennell, opened the business March 1 and said they are already outgrowing their space on New London Turnpike. The three offer classes for parents on breast-feeding, baby signing, baby-wearing, baby yoga and infant massage.
Papoose even offers a “warm line” where moms with breast-feeding questions can leave messages, which are returned almost immediately.
“There isn’t a lot around here for people who are slightly alternative in raising babies,” Brassard said. “There are places where you can find story hours, but if you wear your baby in a sling at the grocery store, people look at you weird. I wanted to go somewhere where there were other people with the same parenting philosophy.”
Salegna said she grew up watching Pennell, a retired nurse, assist new mothers and became fascinated with the idea of “attachment parenting.” The approach, made popular by pediatrician William Sears, centers around the idea infants crave closeness with parents.
Salegna said she and her partners aim to provide support for new mothers they can’t find elsewhere.
“You can read about this stuff in books, but new parents don’t exactly have a lot of time to do that,” she said. “It’s very hands-on. If someone is taking the baby-wearing class, they can come to me and say, ‘The baby is sitting up now, how can I hold him now?’ And I can answer their question. You don’t get that kind of support at other places.”
Gretchen Lally said enrolling her 15-month-old son, Christopher, in the Itsy Bitsy Yoga class at Papoose has allowed the two to bond during an activity that gets them both out of the house and interacting with other moms and babies.
“He’s starting to do the motions from class at home now,” she said. “He looks forward to it.”
Camassar said one of the biggest obstacles she, Salegna and Pennell are trying to overcome is the idea classes for parents and babies are expensive. Many of the introductory classes at Papoose and other centers like it are free.
The owners are also looking to add classes this summer so parents can bring their infants and older children to the same place to learn. Salegna is also an instructor in hypnobirthing (giving birth with only the use of self-hypnosis), and she has begun to teach another class on making baby food.
Brassard said she feels more bonded with her daughter Nora, 1, through the techniques she’s learned at Papoose in the past few months. Rather than worrying about what people think about her wearing Nora in a sling, she said she’s more concerned with what is best for her daughter.
“Some people really do think it’s odd, but you get out there and see other people do what you believe in. It’s a great opportunity. There’s nothing like that in this area,” she said.
Reach Amy Lawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the Web: www.papoosebebe.com.