Written by: Cally Worden
Massaging your baby is a lovely way to bond. Touch is known to be important in helping your baby to feel safe and secure, so what better way to express love for your little bundle than through a sensory experience that will leave you both feeling soothed and calm.
What is Baby Massage?
Traditional grown-up massage can be a little, erm, rigorous depending on your choice of masseur. Baby massage couldn’t be more different. It involves using your hands to stroke your baby’s body in a gentle and rhythmic way. Soft manipulation of joints around the ankles, wrists and fingers can also form part of your routine.¬† Experts know that the soothing caresses help to stimulate production of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, in both you and your baby. It is similar to the loved-up feeling you get when you cuddle or breastfeed your baby.
Various studies have shown that massage can be beneficial to babies and young children, and the adults engaged in it too, even if one of you is just watching. The release of oxytocin helps to combat stress and as you embark on a massage session you will probably find that an air of calm descends around you, and within you. Massage is especially good for premature babies. In all cases, baby massage is known to:
- Help your baby sleep
- Make them more peaceful at a general level
- Reduce instances of crying
- Strengthen and reinforce the bond with the parent
It has also been suggested that baby massage can help boost your baby’s immune system and reduce the number of illnesses they catch. It is also possible that skin-to-skin contact in this way may encourage and stimulate brain development in your baby.
For the parents, massaging your baby is a great way to create special bonding time, where the focus is just on you and your little one. The simple act of concentrating on your baby can help lift your mood, and it is actively encouraged in mothers who may be suffering from post-natal depression.
Timing is Everything
Anyone with a small baby knows that the pockets of time within the day when it is possible to have baby time that doesn’t involve feeding, settling for sleep, and nappy changes are few and far between. However, one of these fallow periods is the best time to indulge in a massage session with your baby. That way, she will be awake and contented, and you will both get the maximum benefit from the session. Making massage part of the bedtime routine, after a warm relaxing bath, for example, could be a good time to find a regular slot.
Things You Will Need
For a successful massage you will need a warm, draught-free room, with a comfortable place for your baby to lie. Choose a place where it is comfortable for you to reach your baby. Lay out a towel or folded sheet and lie your baby on top. If your little one is sensitive to being naked it’s okay to leave a loose fitting vest on. Make sure there are no distractions to disturb you, such as the TV or telephone. Some parents like to play some quiet, soothing music in the background. Have everything to hand:
- Oil or cream for the massage – baby oil or baby moisturiser both work well to help your hands glide smoothly across your baby’s body – always check the product on a tiny patch of skin before you begin, to make sure there is no adverse reaction or irritation
- Towels to mop-up any spills
- A nappy and clothes for your baby for when you’ve finished
- Everything you normally have to hand for a nappy change
How to do the Massage
Your baby will find it comforting if you follow a routine for your massage that is similar each time. Plan to work your way around the body in the same order, perhaps starting with the legs, before moving to the hands, arms and finally the body. If you baby is unsure the first few times, it may help just to concentrate on the legs, as your baby is used to these being touched during nappy changes. Once you have your plan, you are ready to start:
- Warm a little oil or moisturiser in your hands first
- Rub it very gently into your baby’s legs, working slowly upwards from the toes, stroking with your palms and squeezing calves and thighs lightly with your fingers
- Move to the hands, rubbing them gently between your fingers and thumb, before moving up the arm using similar motions to those you used on the legs
- For the body and tummy, place your palms and fingers flat on baby’s body, and smooth outwards in a gentle circular motion, repeating for as long as your baby is enjoying it
This last point is important. Watch your baby closely during the massage for signals about what she does and doesn’t like. She will let you know when she has had enough, but try to pre-empt this by finishing on a high note that leaves you both feeling on top of the world.