Developmental Baby Massage instructor, Amy Rudd, gives us the lowdown on how Baby Massage can help your little one (and you) chill and catch some zzzs. One of the best ways to encourage infant wellness, or in other words, a happy and well rested baby is to include a Baby Massage in their routine. Read on for the ‘what, why, when and how’ behind a relaxing baby massage, the benefits this will have on both baby and you, with the aim of having a well-rested baby.
Baby massage, what exactly is it?
It’s the practice of physical stimulation, using a lightly pressured touch to soothe, build your baby’s resilience and bond with your baby.
As quoted by Peter Walker ‘The most powerful massage that your baby will ever receive during his lifetime is birth itself, which comes with the contractions of a vaginal delivery. During this time, the prolonged contractions of the uterus both pushed your baby through the birth canal and stimulated his peripheral nervous system and major organs in preparation for life outside the womb. By continuing a similar pattern of physical stimulation as your baby develops, you are following natures way of boosting your baby’s resilience’
Not all massages will look the same, that’s because each baby is different, and will each enjoy certain techniques which others don’t. Your baby may also respond differently to each massage just as we respond differently to routine situations. Now let’s look at why Developmental Baby Massage is beneficial to the development and growth of your baby.
What are the Benefits of Infant Massage?
Starting from the beginning: The Benefits of Touch:
Touch is a new-born’s first language.Its our first form of communication and is an essential part of forming early parent – child relationships. This goes on through life, we hear a child or adult cry, we touch them for reassurance.We feel proud of our peers, we give them a hug. Although the need for touch continues through our lives, it is more intense in the early years and stimulates the sense required for brain development.
Some of the physical benefits of touch include:
The production of growth hormones from the pituitary gland is increased.
Improvement of the blood flow and circulation, as muscles relax they absorb the blood, as they contract they help to pump the blood back to the heart. By massaging and encouraging the blood flow you will be warming their hands and feet.
Helps relax the muscles which then allows free movement of the joints, increasing your baby’s flexibility.
By massaging your baby, you also express emotional affection, let’s look now at the benefits of Massage and our emotions:
Baby Massage promotes your baby’s emotional health.With every emotional change there is a muscular reaction. By massaging your baby, you help to calm the emotions as well as helping to ease any muscular tension and relieve some of the trauma and anxiety associated with birth and a new environment.Other emotional benefits include the reduction of the circulation of cortisol (a stress hormone within the blood stream) if done regularly.Stimulates the release of endorphins which help to subdue pain.Together with the reduction of cortisol, massage induces general feelings of wellbeing throughout your baby’s body.
The emotional benefits lead us into the benefits Baby Massage has on strengthening the bond between parent and baby.
Baby and Parent Bonding:
Along with having several potential health benefits, baby massages can also strengthen the bond and attachment, as you massage your baby you maintain eye contact, kiss, caress, and vocalise building a closeness in your relationship. It introduces a unique level of confidence and trust to your relationship. A great way for fathers to strengthen their bond, build their confidence and learn how to handle their baby.
We have looked at the physical and emotional benefits. Now let’s look at the benefits that help us have a more settled baby and how we can use baby massage to promote sleep, ease colic symptoms and reduce congestion caused by coughs and colds. Perfect for this time of year.
Sleep: As we have already discussed, when we massage baby, baby releases the feel-good hormones and is more relaxed. This gives them a sense of security and comfort enabling a restful sleep.During classes we look at techniques we can use to help baby fall asleep and stay asleep. Majority of the parents who attend voice that baby has a long and deep sleep after a massage.
Wind, Colic and Constipation: When massage is done correctly it can help ease colic symptoms.Colic symptoms, reflux and trapped wind can be eased by allowing lots of tummy time when baby is awake, as this position helps to stretch the abdomen and helps it to relax. Massage strokes on the tummy area also help to relive these symptoms, just remember to stroke clockwise, the way the digestive system works.
Congestion caused by Coughs and Colds: techniques to relieve congestion can also be taught in massage classes and involve simple strokes around the nose and ears.Easy to do at any time of the day.
There has been research completed that shows that daily massage can help support immune symptoms in infants.
So, when should you implement a Baby Massage into your baby’s routine?
This is dependent on the baby! Remember timing is everything!
Firstly, you need to have the time to be able to focus on just baby and you, Baby shouldn’t be hungry and it best to massage during a wakeful period. However, you may have the timing right and find that when you touch your baby, they stiffen this may be an indication that now is not the best time for them.If you touch baby and find baby softens and relaxes, then this may be the moment to start a massage.
How should the massage be implemented?
First you need to set the scene, the room should be warm and calm, dim the lights, play calming music, and try not to be disturbed. Lay your baby on a towel on top of their changing mat. Talk softly to your baby, sing to your baby to offer reassurance. Try to maintain eye contact with your baby but don’t force baby to look at you, just let them know they are safe, secure, and loved and that it’s time to relax.
You are welcome to use an oil or lotion to massage baby – before using please remember to do a patch test.
With lubricated hands you want to feel your baby with your palms, the more confident you become you will increase the pressure slightly and give more depth to the massage. As you become more confident you will instil that confidence into your baby. Starting with your palms on her belly, stroke down the legs to the feet, you can then move onto the arms, helping to open baby out and relax. Movements include stroking, hand over hand, kneading and percussion. All movements need to be natural and not forced.Listening out for cues that baby is enjoying the area being massaged or letting you know its time to move on from that area. Don’t forget to roll baby over to massage down their back, this also encourages tummy time.You want to extend their limbs and relax their muscles.
When it comes to Oils, it is recommended to use an oil which is free from nuts and fragrances. Amy recommends using an Olive oil as it is good for dry skin and cradle cap. Grapeseed oil is known to absorb into the skin easily or a Sunflower oil again as its odourless and good for the skin.All of these are edible, you will find as your baby grow’s they will put their hand in their mouths so it’s essential that the oils used are safe to consume. They are also widely available and inexpensive. We avoid fragranced oils as they can dry out the skin and any oils from nuts due to nut allergies.Essential oils are also avoided in class due to the risk of allergies. With any oil it is advisable to carry out a patch test first. If you already use a lotion on baby’s skin, then this can be used in place of the oil.
Amy Rudd is a qualified Pregnancy Yoga, Postnatal Yoga & Developmental Baby Massage instructor. She specialises in making those early months of parenting easier ones, so you can be a happy and more confident parent.