Teaching with a newborn?? Is it possible?

Jessica Nielson said: Jan 5, 2013
Long Beach, CA
2 posts

I’m due Feb. 12, 2013, and I want to continue teaching my students as much as possible after having our little boy. He is our first, though, so I don’t know how much time I need to take off to get used to things. My plan was to take February and March off, and start teaching right after spring break on April 8th. However, as things get closer I’m getting nervous that maybe that might result in disaster. Of course I want to still be able to have my attention focused on the student I’m with during each lesson, and I’d be extremely embarrassed to have to cut a lesson short…that’s what worries me. If my lessons are only 30-45 minutes and I space them out, is it possible to still teach in a professional way?

Has anyone done this that could give me some advice about how it works? I need to let my students know when I’ll be returning to teach pretty soon here, and I don’t want to have to change dates on them later, especially since I want to move to a semester teaching schedule. Any help?

P.S. I only have eight students right now, six of them Suzuki kids (ages 10,9,7,5,4,4), and teach about 6.5 hours a week(30 & 45 min lessons). It is possible that I could get a neighbor to help with our son for those hours, but ideally I’d like to avoid that scheduling hassle and just teach while my son’s there, either asleep or in the room(fed and changed, of course)…or maybe in a carrier or sling?

Michelle McManus Welch said: Jan 5, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Lindenhurst, IL
42 posts

GET A SITTER who will watch your child OUTSIDE of the teaching studio! Trust me, there is no fair way to meet everyone’s needs (especially as your child gets older). Maybe dad can care for him for part of it?

Michelle Mc Manus Welch

Wendy Caron Zohar said: Jan 5, 2013
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Ann Arbor, MI
94 posts

Not an ideal situation! I agree with Michelle. We had an au pair (this was not in the US) who looked after them when I was busy or at orchestra rehearsals, but there were many occasions when neither my husband nor she were available, and I had no choice, so here is what I did with twin boy babies! :

Naturally I planned so that I had already nursed them, so that they were sated and diapered, and comfortable, preferably nodding off, and I set the two of them at my feet, well wrapped, in bouncy sling chairs. They were happy and content seeing and hearing me, listening as my students played. If I heard even a start of a whimper I would softly, gently bounce them with a foot on the frame. Occasionally I would have to take one into my arms until he settled down… and then the other would want the same… I can remember many weeks of teaching with this setup. No one minded very much and we got through it.

That being said, generally my students were more of the 8—12 year old range, and they were fascinated and adoring of the twins, and loved having the extra listeners. Had my students been much younger, that might not have worked; they might have felt in competition for attention and acted up themselves! Again, I urge you to make every effort to have your baby well tended and in another room while you are teaching, because this is not ideal! Your mind should be free to be totally fixed on what your student is doing; that is his time with you, and he is your first priority. Also, your student should not be distracted by the cute little baby. In my case, I had no choice on quite a few occasions.

Good luck with the birth, and your first months of motherhood!! It will be exhausting. If you have other questions and are in need of other kinds of advice, do not hesitate to ask! I love to be of help to expectant mothers.


Wendy Caron Zohar

Janie said: Jan 6, 2013
 Violin, Recorder, Viola
Glenwood Springs, CO
16 posts

Jessica, you have 2 really good suggestions, which are worth considering. It is certainly possible, but accommodations will have to be made. Just remember that you must fit the baby into your schedule, don’t try to work your schedule around his. Whatever you come up with will be temporary, as your baby’s needs will change frequently. Just don’t get too set on anything, but be ready to improvise when you must. Best of luck with your new family and studio.


Lori Bolt said: Jan 6, 2013
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

I had the help of my parents when our first was born. They came over during my teaching hours to watch the baby. But when our 2nd was born, my parents had moved too far away to help, so I was on my own. I basically planned my teaching so that I could nurse the baby every two hours (at first). He slept in between times, and the 3 yr. old was napping too. It worked because I didn’t have a huge number of students at the time. As we outgrew that schedule, the baby would sometimes be in a swing, etc. and of course, piano moms were happy to hold him! Maybe it wasn’t 100% professional, but it was reality. Maybe it helped a piano mom see that she could practice w/ her child in the middle of life changes.

You may consider whether you have an older student who can watch the baby for you. The couple of months you’re taking off will help you gage how things will go w/ the baby. Go confidently forward! Best wishes….

Lori Bolt

Amanda Marie said: Jan 7, 2013
Amanda Marie TewViolin
Saint Joseph, MI
14 posts

This was my plan when I was expecting my first. Imagine my complete surprise when the baby came and he didn’t just sit happily between nursings and diaper changes! :) Big learning curve, lol. Now, having gone through three babies, I would not charge people money if I did not have a paid babysitter in the home. For me the biggest loss is that 1/3 of my teaching money goes to childcare. But I still really like being able to teach out of my home, with my children with me at home, knowing that both their needs and my studio needs are being met because I have a sitter.

Beverly Gay-Photiades said: Jan 7, 2013
 Violin, Viola
Royal Oak, MI
2 posts

Definitely arrange child care for your infant when you are teaching. Your students and their parents will expect you to give your full attention to them when teaching. This is what you are paid for after all. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to predict when your infant will need your attention. Better to have anticipated this then be caught unprepared when you are in the middle of a lesson and your own child needs care.

You might consider taking a longer maternity leave before returning to work. That will give you more uninterrupted time with your own child and ease your own return to work.

Best wishes!

Beverly Gay-Photiades

Holly said: Jan 7, 2013
Holly PettyViolin
1 posts

I began teaching when my daughter was 3 months, and am expecting again in April so I definitely understand your plight.

Personally it was an ever changing journey the entire first year of my baby’s life. Their naps and feeding schedules evolve rather quickly. I currently trade babysitting with another mother who teaches piano. That way I don’t take any loss financially. Neither one of us has a large studio (I teach 6 students as well). I started watching her infant when she was 2 months and it has been great. I am going to take a month break from teaching and I will either keep the baby with me for one more month then most likely start sending her with my toddler to my friends during the bulk of my lessons.

I also teach two other lessons randomly spaced throughout the week but since they are only 30 minutes I am hoping I can time them well enough with the baby’s schedule. I realize it is less professional and less ideal but I made it clear to these two students that if they chose that time they would have children present. I would have preferred to clump them all together but it just didn’t work out that way and in the end I think it has and will continue to work out just fine.

There is nothing like being a first time mom and you never know the temperament or personality of your baby ahead of time, maybe you could tell your students that you will play your return date by ear. Or maybe after the six weeks is up you could teach half of your students one week and the other half the next a until you can handle the full bulk.

Best of luck!

Jessica Nielson said: Jan 8, 2013
Long Beach, CA
2 posts

Thanks SO much for your feedback! Your replies have really helped me look more realistically at what decisions I’ll need to make! I have to confess that until last week I never thought of violin teaching as a job that would require me to have childcare…don’t ask why that didn’t occur to me—it seems silly!
I think I’m going to play things by ear for the first few months with those parents who want to try, planning to return by Apr. 9th, and depending on what kind of baby my little boy turns out to be I may have to switch to only teaching when my husband is home…so far all I can tell is that this little guy may have the hiccups a lot. :)
I’m also working on connecting with some other Suzuki teachers in my area in case I’ll just need to take a break from teaching for a bit to focus on family. That way I’ll be able to recommend another teacher or two and know a little about them.
Thanks so much again, and other ideas and experiences are always appreciated!!

Lori Bolt said: Jan 9, 2013
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

You’re going to gain a whole new perspective on the Suzuki method/philosophy as you watch it in action while your baby learns his language and is also living in a musical environment! How exciting :)

Lori Bolt

Barb said: Jan 9, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

I know one teacher who traded babysitting for violin lessons.

My experience was that just as I figured out the baby’s schedule, it would change. Get all the sleep you can the first several months! Don’t plan on doing things during naps—you will need some, too!

I was not teaching when my children were young, but I did sell Discovery Toys part time at home parties. I took my nursing son along and it worked pretty well. I’m not sure, but he may have been four months before I started that. When he was more mobile I left him home with his dad. But I was able to hold him if needed while I talked and demonstrated the toys pretty easily, and feed him while I took orders. He even helped demo the baby toys! Not sure it would work as well with teaching violin.

Best wishes!

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
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Lindsay said: Jan 9, 2013
Lindsay LogsdonViolin
55 posts

I’ve worked my teaching around 4 newborns in 5.5 years—the youngest is now 9 months.

Here’s my two cents:

Your baby is only a baby for a VERY short time. Everyone says that, but I didn’t really GET IT with my first one. Now, with my fourth baby, I am making sure I really stop and smell the roses. She’s my last child and I know now that I didn’t fully appreciate how quickly the time passes when my first was wee. I started teaching again when my first baby was 8 weeks old, with him in a swing beside me in my home studio. It worked out well enough, and as he got a bit older and more mobile, I had a babysitter come during teaching hours. I left gaps in my schedule so I could nurse the baby in between lessons. If I could go back and do it again, I’d hold off on the teaching for a couple more months and really cherish every moment with my newborn.

With my third and fourth babies, I waited until they were 5-6 months old before I picked up my teaching schedule again. My students understood, and every single family stuck with me. I’m now teaching in my parents’ home. My mother watches the baby upstairs while I teach, and again I’ve left gaps in my schedule to accommodate nursing. My older children stay with Daddy at home.

If you really want to pick up with teaching again right away, it is doable. But if you can get away with waiting a few months longer, I say give your baby every moment that you possibly can while you have the chance. They’re only newborns once! Students come and go—your child is with you for the long haul.

Lindsay—Violin teacher, homeschooling mama of four, small-time publisher

Ok, my first-ever comment in this venue! My daughter was born in the midst of my career as Suzuki director at Cleveland Institute of Music. I’d just finished the Nurtured By Love documentary, and had been through 7 years of infertility/failed in-vitro. Total shock, and NO idea or plan how to proceed when I was blessed with Emiko at age 40. My Suzuki community saved me and loved us both:) I had a dear friend care for her as a newborn & infant, just two hours max while I taught individual lessons (they were in my house, I was elsewhere since it killed me to hear Emiko cry!), I taught groups with her in the sling (she never even made a peep while we played, and maybe a few times a mom was happy to hold her if need be.)
While I agree that babyhood goes by too quickly, it is a long-term issue, for I still seek quality time with my now 16-yr-old “baby,” and found sending her to school much more of a conflict with teaching than infancy. Bottom line, mom needs to be happy for child to thrive. Take care of yourself, my friend. Put on your oxygen mask first although it will always feel selfish and wrong. Sleep when baby sleeps. Let people help you, and know that every mom understands a screaming, temper tantrum doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. It’s like admitting practicing is a struggle- no one wants to admit it, so everyone suffers in silence:)
Enjoy the ride, for having a child has been the best part of life, and for every challenge (still face them daily, sigh) there are MUCH greater rewards!

Barb said: Jan 11, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

Well said! Thanks for joining the conversation!

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Andrea Hudson said: Jan 12, 2013
Andrea Hudson
Suzuki Association Member
26 posts

Good to hear from you Michele! I wholeheartedly agree—so many blessings and rewards being a Mom and loving and nurturing your own child!

Karen said: Jan 13, 2013
Karen Huffman
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Portland, OR
28 posts

Are there any Suzuki Early Childhoos classes in your area? I just finished the first week of training and it is a wonderful thing. I was worrying about having a baby but I am positive with those classes my child will be an angel when it comes to sitting in my studio while I teach. I have never seen a baby so focused on music. Also be sure you are playing a good classical piece over and over now, during the birth and into their first few years. The baby can here it already! It is a magical thing how calm those babies are

Heather Reichgott said: Jan 18, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
94 posts

Wow, that really depends on the baby. Some are very calm and happy to be in the room while parents are doing other things; some need parental attention at all times. Despite what parenting books will tell you, there is really very little you can do to determine the temperament of your child during babyhood.

I have a physically and mentally active 4-year-old daughter whose natural temperament has always been to talk and play with adults 100% of the time she is awake, and was usually either laughing or crying as a baby (my mother says I was the same.) Having my child at work with me is a very important value in my life for various reasons, but it was clear early on that my daughter would not simply sit through while I taught piano lessons. I always had to have either her other parent or a babysitter watch her then.

When she got to be maybe 18 months old, I began teaching her to play independently while I practiced, for longer and longer periods. It was clear this was not her wish, and as with any form of toddler discipline I often had to have a will of iron. By the time she was 3, she had learned enough to be able to be present during a half-hour lesson without being disruptive. At 4, she “gave up” her babysitter during a weekly 4-hour block of lessons, ignoring the sitter and sitting in the studio or in the next room doing her own thing.

So now she can be with me during lessons and she’s usually lovely. But our family still plans things so that only a small number of my 27 students have lessons at times when my daughter is home and I am the only parent home. Her most frequent comment about my practicing is still “WHEN ARE YOU GONNA BE DONE????” but, on the other hand, she often begs to have “her turn” to practice piano when I am practicing.

The short answer is….. it really depends on the kid you get.

Kiyoko said: Jan 26, 2013
 84 posts

My son is about a year old, and the whole listening to music in the womb thing works. Play Suzuki songs while in the womb and that will be what calms your newborn when it comes. It’s womb association. The same concept which makes those tummy tubs and wash pods so successful. My son will always calm down when hearing music. He can bump his head really hard (we try not to let him, but it happens) and as soon as I start singing Twinkle, he calms down and within a minute he stops crying. He hates diaper changes, we sing Twinkle, the Alphabet song, or any song that has the same tune. I did Suzuki violin when I was young but I don’t know the official Book 1 lyrics because they were done after I was older, so I made up my own lyrics to Lightly Row. Any music works to calm my son, the more familiar the better. The lyrics don’t seem to matter as much.

We can’t get to Early Childhood classes, they are too far away, so I’m doing what I can on my own.

Make sure to give yourself a vacation too after the baby comes. Pregnancy and childbirth is not easy work. Your baby will never fault you for not being super mom either.

Good luck with your little one!

Heather Watson said: Jan 27, 2013
Heather Watson Hardie
Suzuki Association Member
4 posts

What fun post! So I agree that you never know what you kind of a baby you are going to get! I taught a full studio and played the cello (as best as I could) until my son was born. My husband is also a cellist and we played and sang lots before he was born. Well- it took months for us to realize the reason our son would never sleep, was pretty much never happy, and was almost always screaming: he had tons of food allergies and they were showing up in my breast milk. He didn’t sleep for over an hour in one stretch until he was over 2 months old. I had planned on taking 3 weeks off of teaching (Ha!) but I was a total wreck and ended up taking 3 months off. My husband was able to handle all of the teaching for both of our studios (still don’t know how he did that) and we have gotten sitters when we need them since I went back to work. I actually think that the Suzuki/mom life is as close to perfect as you can get. We get them in the mornings when they are happiest, then when they are crabby in the afternoons, someone else can help with it. It’s a really nice balance.
As for our Ethan, we took out the foods that bothered him and slowly he became a very happy little boy. He’s 2 now and is awesome! But I highly recommend finding childcare during your teaching. You are pulled in too many different directions if your son is there. And teaching gave me a little bit of myself back to me. I like to think that being a mom is a nice break from teaching, and vice versa.
Good luck!! It’s an awesome adventure! And don’t try to predict baby behavior- just when you think you have it figured out- it will change. Best of luck again!
-Heather Watson Hardie

Natalie said: Jan 28, 2013
 2 posts

As a new mom of a now 6 month old, I can relate to so many things on this post. Thanks for starting this thread- you will help many moms!

I also planned to take off 3 weeks and little by little get back at it full swing. Definitely only give your students a tentative plan. Many will look at you like you are crazy for only taking off 3 weeks but every person is different (and when you work for yourself you may not feel you have much of a choice)! You don’t know exactly what your delivery will be like- our daughter ended up needing the NICU for almost 2 weeks so that threw a slight curve ball into my “get back to work at 3 weeks” plan. And with a C-section, recovery can be trickier also. So, always have a plan b. Don’t be naive and think things will work out exactly as you planned :)

A few things to keep in mind that I found out as we have embarked on the same journey:

  1. Timing nursing with teaching/gigging is not always easy. Your baby will be hungry and fussy at times when he or she is hungry and fussy- not necessarily when you need to get ready to work. Pumping is VERY helpful.
  2. Teaching IN your home with a crying baby is VERY hard on a first time mother and if you are a nursing mom you may see how that affects your teaching as well. I taught the first month at home with my husband watching the baby. After one month, I sought out free space (a church that is letting me barter a few free performances for the space). It is stressful on any sitter to feel like they need to quiet down the baby quickly because you are trying to teach in another area of the house.
  3. Every baby is different and they change at the speed of light. The first few weeks, everyone asked if our baby was always that quiet. Weeks later, she had crying outbursts especially in the evenings. Turned out she was allergic to any dairy that I had consumed before nursing her….once that was sorted she was less fussy but always remember that babies are UNpredictable.
  4. Every student family will be different. I had some mothers ask in a concerned way “who will take care of the baby?” (in a way that made it sound like it would be too much of a distraction), others tell me that “you really need to be with your baby and have her in a sling while you teach- it’s best for her!”, others offer to babysit while I taught, etc. Every child and family deals with the “distraction” differently. Two students of mine who are siblings actually switched TO me because their former teacher had a baby and it was “just too distracting and a waste of their money”. I teach at home now only 1 day per week— the other days are away from home. Find ways to consolidate your schedule in order to spend more time with baby.
  5. Shop around for a few babysitters in case someone you do hire is not available. We have 1 that we are VERY comfortable with but could use some more back ups. My hubby and I take care of most of our child care ourselves, tag teaming with teaching/gigging and a sitter 2 times per week. It is CRAZY but it means a lot to us to be with the baby during these early months. We are starting to get a sitter a bit more to have a teeny bit of sanity :)

Good luck! You will be a zombie but the joys of being a mom are priceless.

Laura said: Feb 26, 2013
Laura Appert SpringhamViolin, Viola
33 posts

I had my boy October 1, 2012. Luckily he is usually calm and loves hearing the violin! Having said that, I only have a few students come to my home, no longer than 1 hour without my husband there to take care of him. I teach all my other students at my school without the baby. You will find you cannot focus properly with the baby making noise (even happy noises!).

Take as much time off as you can, I took 4 months off and even though it is harder financially, it has been worth it to get the hang of nursing and everything else. Don’t rush back into teaching, you will always be able to find students if a few go somewhere else. Most families are really understanding and helpful with your first baby and are excited for you!

Good luck!

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