For those parents keen to start massaging their little ones before their Baby Massage course begins, here are some guidelines which might help…
Why: In massaging your baby very gently, you communicate with them through your hands and nurture the special loving bond that is growing between you. Massage relaxes your baby, helping them to cope better with all the new things they will encounter in their early days. It promotes deeper and longer periods of sleep and can be used as part of your settling routine to help baby understand that bedtime is coming. Research shows that massage may promote healthy growth and also help alleviate discomfort caused by colic, wind, teething or constipation. Plus of course, your baby will be used to the feeling of massage when your course starts, which is helpful as tolerance and enjoyment of massage builds with each practice session.
"Touch has a memory" - John Keats
When: Our Baby Massage courses are for babies past 8 weeks of age when it is safe to use oils on their skin and they have had their initial medical check-ups; but babies benefit from receiving gentle-touch much earlier than that. For newborns, skin-to-skin contact helps them feel loved, safe and nurtured, and from just a few weeks old, more focused gentle stroking which mimics the lightest form of massage (known as effleurage) can be used to great effect.
Choose a time when your baby is calm but awake; many people find that after bath time ideal as baby is already undressed, warm and alert. If at any point your baby starts to cry, becomes agitated or falls asleep, stop massaging and just try again another time.
Where: Choose a warm, quiet place where you and your baby will not become distracted.
How: I recommend not using oil until baby hits 8 weeks; after that you could use an unscented, edible, non-nut-based pure oil, such as grapeseed oil. Oil will obviously make your baby slippery to hold, so only use a little and make sure you have them in a safe handling position. Rub a drop of oil on baby’s wrist an hour before using it for the first time to test for allergic reaction.
For your first few sessions, start off by holding baby close (eg on your chest or in your arms) and gently stroking the length of their leg or back, slowly & repeatedly. This can be through soft clothing as long as there are no poppers/zips etc being pushed in to baby’s skin; but after a few sessions, try to work directly on the skin. Then, assuming baby is still content, move on to another body part, perhaps an arm or cheek. The pressure you are aiming for is light, as if applying a soothing lotion to sensitive skin. Spend a few minutes on each body area and talk softly or sing to your baby throughout, as the sound of your voice is what soothes them the most. To start with, that’s all you need do to acclimatize baby to receiving massage. Enjoy!
Once your baby is used to the above (usually after a week or two): move on to laying your baby down on a towel for their massage as this gives you better access to each body part and allows you to establish eye-contact at the same time. In this position, it’s also best to wait at least half an hour after feeding, otherwise baby may regurgitate. With baby laying on their back, begin with one leg, replicating the type of gentle stroking moves baby has already become used to, then move on to a foot, then the other leg and foot, or whichever body part seems logical to you at the time. There is no set routine to follow and no ideal length of time to massage for. Just remember that if baby signals unhappiness or falls asleep, stop massaging and try again another time.
Finally: Baby Massage classes will later teach you how to use more complex massage techniques on your baby and provide you with an easy to follow flowing massage routine. Until then, please don’t worry if you don’t feel very confident about massaging your little one, or if your baby doesn’t instantly love every moment of it. It is a journey of discovery that you are on together which takes time and practice; go as gently on your own expectations as you do on your baby’s skin.