Baby massage has been a long standing parenting technique practised in many cultures across the world, including Africa and India. Introduced to the west in the 1970s, it is now recognised as a useful tool for bonding and is reported to have a number of other psychological and physiological benefits, such as reduced crying, improved digestion and sleep, and relief from ailments like colic and constipation.
If you would like to make massage a part of your daily routine, here are some helpful hints for enjoying baby massage at home:
Create a warm, calm space
Your baby’s massage should take place in a warm and comfortable environment, away from drafts, loud noises and harsh lighting.
Choose the best time
Wait at least 45 minutes after your baby has been fed and choose a time of day when he is alert but also calm and quiet. If your baby is very unsettled, has a temperature or has recently had vaccinations, it is better to delay the massage until another occasion.
Use unscented oil
Use an unscented cold-pressed vegetable oil, such as grape seed oil. This will protect your baby’s sensitive skin and won’t overwhelm her senses. It’s also less of a concern if she ends up sucking on her oily fingers and toes!
Make sure you are feeling calm before you begin the massage. If you’re tense, your baby will be too. Massage time should always be enjoyable for both of you.
Ask your baby’s permission to massage her. It may sound silly, but positive verbal communication should begin from birth. Teach her that she is in charge of her body and watch out for subtle cues that will tell you whether she is happy to be massaged.
Talk and sing
Playing calming music, singing songs or simply talking to your baby can help to set the right mood for a relaxing massage session. Babies can learn to identify certain songs or speech patterns with massage time, so this is a great way to prepare them for what is about to happen.
Use a towel
Lay your baby on a towel during the massage to protect surfaces from oil and other possible little accidents. For the same reason, have a spare towel and nappy equipment within easy reach.
Be gentle, yet firm
Use firm, gentle strokes. If your touch is too light, you may irritate or tickle your baby. Too rough and it may be uncomfortable. Try to find a balance that works best for your baby.
Join a class
While there are many good baby massage books on the market, the best way to learn different techniques is by taking a class with a certified infant massage instructor. You can find a list of baby massage classes in and around Essex here. Many instructors also offer small private groups or one-to-one sessions in your own home if you cannot find a suitable venue near you.
Want to see a baby massage session in action? The following video demonstrates several common techniques:
The information and views set out in this video do not necessarily reflect those of Essex Baby. Responsibility for the information and views expressed therein lies entirely with the creator(s).