Massaging your Baby
Learning from a qualified Infant Massage Instructor will give you hands on time with step-by-step instructions on how to massage YOUR baby. Learning in a group will give you opportunity to share your experiences and the courses are a great way to meet other new mums.
Note: This information is intended for educational purposes only. You should seek further advice and instruction from your chosen healthcare professional.
Enhancing your bond with baby through Massage
“Being touched and caressed, being massaged, is food for the infant.
Food as necessary as minerals, vitamins and proteins.” (DR.FREDERICK LEBOYER)
Touch is a universal language. It’s also a great way to communicate with your baby. Did you know that in-utero babies can hear, smell, see, feel and establish bonds that last forever? You can maintain these bonds after birth through the art of infant massage.
The basic bonding and therapeutic benefits derived from this practice are not recent discoveries. Many cultures throughout history have engaged in this activity to bring balance, health and wellbeing to their child. Stimulation that begins in the womb
Human embryos from approximately eight weeks of age are caressed in the womb as the amniotic fluid sways with movement. This in turn stimulates the skin. Stimulation continues throughout the pregnancy as the embryo develops and the womb closes in around the baby.
Baby experiences gentle contractions that massage the skin. The gentle caresses or contractions of the womb become much stronger as the birthing process begins.
Baby becomes accustomed to feeling the rhythms and it is important that these are re-established after birth to continue the therapeutic and bonding benefits of skin stimulation. This is why your baby requires constant movement and tactile stimulation.
Babies command you to pick them up. It is their way of making sure they receive the touch (skin stimulation) they need for therapeutic as well bonding benefits.
Benefits of Massage for Babies and Children
“People don’t realize that communication for a baby, and the first language of its development, is through the skin. If only most people had realized this they would have all along given babies the kind of skin stimulation they require.” (ASHLEY MONTAGUE, Anthropologist)
The benefits of Massage can be grouped into the following main categories:
- Skin Stimulation
Relaxation: Why Babies Need It.
Why do babies need to RELAX you may ask but there is so much going on within their world, it is not really worries they have but with nappy changes and clothes being put on and pulled off massage can help ease the muscles into relaxation, and when practiced on a regular basis, teaches the infant what relaxation is and how to go about it. And as a side-benefit, the massager gets to take time out to gently massage their baby and they usually de-stress at the same time!
Massage can give your baby RELIEF from discomforts from teething, congestion, gas colic and emotional stress.
More intimate interaction with parents helps to foster the parent/infant bond
Massage can be performed by Fathers as well as Mothers and other primary care givers, I always encourage Fathers to come along to class if they can and it gives them a role to play in looking after their child (while Mum can go for a bath or walk outside) as often they can feel shut out in the first few months especially if Mum is breastfeeding.
Bonding is an ongoing process; sometimes for reasons out of our control we don’t always look into each other’s eyes and feel that instant connection. So performing massage means spending quality time together giving eye to eye contact and skin to skin contact the two most important aspects of bonding. It is something you do with your baby not simply for, like nappy changing or feeding. Maintaining loving touch as your baby grows into a child and into adulthood strengthens the bonds and keeps communication open for a secure and loving relationship.
All the physiological systems are STIMULATED by massage. Babies are not born with the protective insulation sheaf that protects nerves and so massage helps to speed up the myelinisation of the brain/nervous system. The circulatory system is stimulated too, if your baby has cold hands or feet just 5 minutes will help to warm them. Some babies who have cerebral palsy need more stimulating massage rather than relaxation too, their muscles need to be worked differently. Premature babies who are massaged gain as much as 47% more weight (compared with baby’s who are not massaged) as research by Tiffany fields at the Touch Institute in Miami has established.
Other factors to consider
Finding the right TIME can be an important point to remember, babies do not work according to our 24-hour clock. They have a cycle that involves sleep, crying, active alert time (playing) and quiet alert; this is generally the best time to try massaging. When they are just happy to look around. Generally I try to encourage parents to keep bath and massage time separate in the first few months, as this can be too stimulating.
Which Massage OIL?
It has been shown that babies prefer oil and vegetable or plant based is best. Plant based oils are easy to absorb into the skin, and easily digested if your baby sucks his/her thumb with oil attached! Mineral oils are not readily absorbed and, if not harmful are certainly not good for you so stay away from traditional baby oil. So which oil? The most common is Sweet Almond but I like Apricot kernel it is light and has lots of vitamins to nourish your babies skin.
Temperature of the Room
Having the room at the right TEMPERATURE is important, as babies are not good at regulating their body’s just yet, especially if you are going to be taking off their clothes. I, also encourage parents to remove the nappy, babies love the freedom. Consider the light too, not too bright and no direct light into their eyes.
Above all ENJOY!
Infant Massage Helps:
- Increase oxygen and nutrient flow to cells
- To deepen respiration
- Improve muscle tone and circulation
- Encourage midline orientation
- Improve sensory awareness
- Baby/child to sleep deeper and longer
- Improve digestion
- Enhance neurological development
- Provide special communication time that serves as a safe time for children to confide in their parent
Infant Massage – A Handbook for Loving Parents, by Vimala Schneider-McClure. Published by Bantam
Example of how to start Baby Massage
Touch is a universal language.
Massaging your baby makes them feel safe and secure and bonding is reinforced. Only massage as much as your baby’s stimulation threshold will allow.
If you notice your baby is curling up, trying to move away, or withdrawing – these are signs that your baby has had enough.
Make sure you are relaxed first as baby will pick up on your emotions. Gradually build up to whole body massage.
First, lay your baby on their back and ask them if they would like to receive their massage. This instills respect for their own body.
By watching your baby’s body language, you can see whether they would like to or not.