Touch is one of the most powerful ways for you to bond with your baby and research has shown that baby massage plays a large role in promoting healthy growth and development.
The positive effects are beneficial for all babies including those who may have neurological or developmental difficulties – just check with your physio or occupational therapist before embarking on full baby massage. They will be able to give you advice specific to your baby’s individual needs.
When baby’s are in the womb they get a ton of rich sensory experiences by being in a closely cocooned, warm and soothing environment. It’s possible to replicate this experience with massage as it stretches and stimulates your baby’s muscles while having them in a calm, relaxing environment. Along with your reassurance, touch and love, your baby feels safe, secure and happy.
Hippocrates in the 5th century BC said: “The way to health is to have a scented bath and an oiled massage each day”. Aah-if only that were possible! Luckily for babies, it is
When you massage your baby, it’s another way to communicate that you love and cherish him or her and to strengthen the special connection between the 2 of you. I think that bonding with your baby is the best thing ever so any excuse is helpful in my book!
Some of the physical benefits of baby massage include:
- A calming, soothing effect
- Relief from colic, wind, constipation and even teething discomfort
- Increased levels of relaxation and longer sleep
- Faster weight gain
- Less likely to cry excessively
- Speeds up the progress of premature and low birth weight babies
- Develops body awareness and co-ordination
Baby massage is a wonderful experience for you and your baby and can begin within days of your baby’s birth. As well as being a relaxing, bonding activity to do together, it provides a perfect opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of your baby’s behaviour, crying and body language.
There are baby massage courses available which your health visitor, GP or local children’s therapy centre may be able to give you details on but in the meantime if you’d like to get started, here are some basic guidelines to follow.
Guidelines to get started with baby massage:
- Be in a warm, dimly lit room
- Make sure you are comfortably positioned either sitting on the floor with baby in front of you or up on a changing mat or suitable surface that doesn’t strain your back (always have a hand on baby!)
- Have your baby in a nappy only and lie her on a towel in front of you
- Rub your hands together to warm them. You can use baby oil or a small drop of olive oil if you choose
- Be slow and use gentle pressure in small circular movements with your finger tips
- Start on baby’s forehead and use gentle circular strokes to massage temples, cheeks and jaw area
- Slowly move down to neck and shoulders
- Always watch closely to check how your baby is responding. Firm but gentle pressure is most comfortable and will avoid uncomfortable tickling
- If your baby starts to fret or get upset, turning head away from your touch, then it may be time to stop and try later
- Work your way down each arm to her hands and palms
- Roll your baby over onto her tummy
- Continue with small circular movements on the back of her head, down her back and spine
- Continue to her bottom, thighs, lower legs, feet and toes (legs and feet can be done when she’s on her back too)
- Your baby will enjoy it even more if you use a gentle, soothing voice to sing and talk to her throughout the massage