Updated: Nov 24, 2021
I recently asked our mums on social media if they ever massage their babies at home, and a staggering number said no. This got me thinking.
I became a first-time mum in the middle of a national lockdown. Everything was shut and the only sensory experience my baby got outside of my living room was a trundle down the fruit and veg aisle at Asda. Naturally, I found myself scouring the internet for things to do. It was there I stumbled across baby massage. A couple of short YouTube videos later, I began regularly massaging her at home. I think it saved us both.
I had never massaged a baby before, and I didn't have a clue whether I was doing it 'right', but Felicity didn't seem to be complaining. It was in these quiet moments that we learnt so much about each other.
So this week I've asked myself - why aren't our mums doing it? Is it because you don't know why you should? Or is it because you don't know how? Either way I am going to tell you why there is no better place to start than in the comfort of your own living room!
Why should I massage my baby?
Firstly, it helps both you and your baby relax.
One in five mothers find bonding with their baby difficult and one in ten are likely to suffer from post natal depression within the first year. Sleepless nights and the pressures of keeping your little human alive can leave you feeling strung out, anxious and depressed.
Massage stimulates the release of oxytocin, that natural 'wonder' chemical that helps us feel good. When you massage your baby, you both experience a surge in oxytocin, helping to strengthen the bond between you.
Furthermore, learning to read your baby's cues (they'll soon tell you what they like and don't like!) can help you to feel empowered as a parent; and everyday interaction begins to feel easier, as the bond between you grows.
Secondly, massaging your baby also helps to build confidence in handling them. Often as new parents the fear of hurting, dropping or 'doing something wrong' can have such an overwhelming impact that we feel safer when our baby is not in our arms.
I will never forget trying to dress Felicity for the first time when she was hours old. It took me about ten minutes to get her arms in her cardigan. Baby massage is a great way to gain confidence in holding your baby and you'll soon come to realise they aren't made of glass, and are far more resilient than we think!
Now please don't hunt me down if this doesn't work for you, but studies also show massaging your baby can help them to sleep deeper and longer.
Adult bodies usually prepare for sleep when it gets dark, as we produce more of the hormone melatonin in darkness. It's melatonin that slows us down and helps us to feel drowsy. Babies who are often massaged have been found to have higher levels of melatonin in their bodies.
Why not incorporate some massage into your evening routine and see? Lots of our mums report that their babies have a great sleep after they have attended one of our baby massage classes, and in those early days - when every minute of sleep is precious - anything you can do to help right?!
What age can I massage my baby?
There is no set minimum age for when to begin massaging your baby. Although your newborn might seem delicate, don't be afraid to begin massaging them shortly after birth.
Some babies find full massage routines too stimulating in the early weeks, so carrying out shorter routines and focusing on creating positive touch is a great place to start.
How do I create right environment for massaging my baby?
You can massage your baby at anytime, anywhere, but you might find that creating the right environment will make a better experience for you both.
choose a time when your baby is happy and alert, not tired or hungry
wash your hands and remove any jewellery that might hurt them
find a position that's comfortable such as on the bed, floor or sofa
place your baby safely on a towel or blanket in front of you
make sure you can see your baby's face
check the lighting isn't too bright
ensure the room is warm enough
ensure you are calm
remove your baby's nappy or loosen it
you may wish to make the massage part of the bed time routine or following a bath
ask baby's permission before beginning the massage - this may seem strange at first but you want to allow your baby to become familiar with this cue that the massage is about to start.
What baby massage oil should I use?
There are tons of products on the market, however you don't need to spend silly amounts of money on something marketed as a baby massage oil.
Often they contain chemicals and have fragrances added, and your baby will most likely be putting their fingers (and toes) in their mouth during and after the massage.
Edible oils are much safer option and two that I would recommend are grapeseed oil or sweet almond oil (both you can pick up for less than a fiver on Amazon). They are really hydrating and kind on your baby's delicate skin, but also absorb well so your baby wont be left too greasy afterwards.
We use them both regularly during our baby massage classes.
Now you know why you should massage your baby, here are 7 easy moves which are a brilliant starting point. You can try them out together in a little routine, or individually. Remember you don't need to be an expert to have a positive massage experience with your baby.
7 easy massage moves to get you started
Resting hands - this move can be used before massaging any area of the body and can also be used as a break during the massage if your baby becomes over stimulated. Once you have warmed a small amount of oil between your hands, gently rest them on baby's chest or tummy. In doing this, you are creating positive touch between you and your baby.
Swedish milking - starting at the wrist or ankle, gently squeeze your baby's arm or leg with your hand positioned as if it were a bracelet. Move your hand upwards along the limb, keeping the gentle pressure (hence the name milking).
Rolling - Beginning at your baby's thigh or shoulder, gently 'roll' the limb between your palms like you are rolling out a piece of dough into a wiggly worm shape. Slowly move your way down towards the wrist or ankle repeating this motion.
Bicycle - a great one for offering relief for trapped wind, gently hold your baby's feet or ankles and move them in a bicycle fashion, softly bringing their knees up towards the stomach and back down.
Thumb over thumb - cradle your baby's foot in your hands. Use your thumb to stroke over the sole of the foot from heel to toe, one thumb after the other.
This little piggy - Holding your fingers in a tripod style grip and gently tug each toe saying the rhyme 'this little piggy went to market'.
Round and round the garden - using your thumb draw small circles on the palm of your baby's hand, singing 'round and round the garden like a teddy bear'. You can also go round and round the (back) garden on the back of their hands with your finger tips.
Baby massage classes in Rossendale
Feeling inspired? Why not give it a go and let us know in the comments how you found your first baby massage experience?
If you fancy learning more about baby massage and are local to Rossendale, why not come along to one of our classes? Massage novices are always welcome!