Given a choice, would you ever say no to a massage? Quite simply, there is nothing more wonderfully relaxing than being rubbed up the right way! Imagine how good it must feel to your baby then, having Mum’s warm hands gently caressing his soft, darling skin.
Baby massage is a fantastic way to strengthen your bond with baby, and is very soothing for mother and baby alike. Not only does it help your baby to sleep better (I’m ready to snooze just thinking about a massage), but it also improves blood circulation, aids digestion and boosts the immune system. Research suggests that gently massaging premature babies can also help to improve growth and development.
“Baby massage benefits both the baby and the parent (daddies can do it, too!). It enhances bonding and communication, stimulates circulation and digestion, reduces stress levels and, above all, is wonderfully relaxing,” explains Kathy Kitzis, a certified infant massage instructor, who co-founded A Mother’s Touch.
“Still touch may be a suitable alternative to massage for premature babies as massage can sometimes be too stimulating,” Kathy advises. “Either way, it is important to get the permission of your baby before you start a massage. As adults, we decide to get a massage, but babies do not. We therefore ask permission from the beginning so that they have a sense of self and power over their own bodies. As a baby gets older, he or she may say no by crying, moving away or saying so.”
How do I do it?
There are a number of different techniques for massaging a baby, but before you get excited and get the oils out, have a think about your baby’s mood and needs right now. If your baby has just had a marathon feeding session or, alternatively, is expecting a feed any second now, do you really think this is the time to massage your child? If, however, the mood is right, make yourselves comfortable either on the floor or on the bed, or with your little bundle of joy on your lap, and make sure the room is warm enough for him. Let’s start with baby on his back so that his front gets a good, relaxing massage first.
Start by smoothing some good quality, cold-pressed vegetable oil such as olive oil, canola or grapeseed, as Kathy suggests, into your warm hands. You’re now ready to massage your baby, either from his little tootsies up or from his head down.
Assuming you choose to start from the feet up, begin by rubbing the soles of baby’s feet. Use slow, gentle yet firm (to avoid tickling) strokes from his heels to his toes. Now stroke his legs, from his ankles to his thighs to his hips. You may choose to gently roll his legs between your hands all the way from his ankle to his hips if you prefer.
Now, massage your little one’s tummy with one hand following the other in clockwise circles. If your baby is gassy, push his knees onto his tummy and hold for a count of ten. Slide your hand across his tummy from left to right then down towards his left hip to move gas towards the rectum.
According to Kathy, “Babies with trapped wind or constipation can find a lot of relief with massage. Baby massage helps parents learn to read their baby’s signals better so they can respond to their needs more effectively.”
Move on to baby’s chest, and stroke outwards from the centre down to his side. Next, stroke (or roll between your hands) baby’s arms. Massage from the shoulders down to the wrists and very gently massage each finger of each hand. Wipe baby’s hands clean before they end up in his mouth.
Using your fingertips, massage his gorgeous little face by making tiny circle motions. Then stroke from the middle of his forehead, down the outside of his face and in towards his cheeks. Make small circles around his jaw. This is especially comforting when babies are teething. If baby’s still relaxed and enjoying himself, turn him onto his front and massage his back, using long strokes from his shoulders down to his toes.
A tiny tot – a newborn, for example – is likely to appreciate a massage for all of two minutes, whilst an older baby may require his massage therapist to take her time.
When you’re finished, wash your hands, then hand this article to your partner. After yet another exhausting, yet hugely rewarding, day of mamahood, it’s now your turn to enjoy a good massage