Regular baby massage can encourage sleep, reduce colic and improve your baby’s mood, while women often report that baby massage helps them to bond with their baby and eases post-natal depression. However, many parents feel intimidated by the thought of giving their baby a massage, imagining the techniques to be complicated and difficult.
Thankfully, baby massage is simple. By following the tips and advice below, you will be able to give an effective, relaxing massage and experience some fantastic one-to-one time with your baby.
Make sure that your baby is warm, comfortable and happy before you start their massage. Wash and warm your hands and remove all rings and bracelets. Baby massage should not be performed before a baby has had their eight week check, and it is best to leave at least thirty minutes between feeding your baby and giving them a massage.
Oils can be used but check that they are suitable for babies beforehand. Good choices are baby oil and grape seed oil. It is a good idea to test the oil on a small patch of skin, wait 30 minutes and then check for any reaction. Do not use nut oil of any kind as there is a risk of nut allergy.
Music can be played, but make sure you choose well. Classical and new-age will both work wonders, but anything too rousing or loud will probably over-excite or irritate your baby. You can buy compilations of music specifically for use during baby massage, allowing the experts to set the mood.
When you first begin the baby massage, your baby may wonder what you’re doing. Make sure that you smile and talk gently to reassure them that everything is normal.
The Massage (note: repeat each stroke 5-6 times)
1. Lay your baby down on their back on a soft towel or on the bed, and talk to them while you remove their clothes and nappy. Warm the oil in your hands if using it, then starting at the shoulders, stroke gently down your baby’s sides, all the way to their feet. Try to make sure that you keep contact with the whole of your hand, not just the fingertips, as this will help you to avoid tickling your baby.
2. Place your flat hands on your baby’s chest, then sweep slowly upwards and outwards over the shoulders, down the arms, and over the hands.
3. Repeat step 1 but at the end of each stroke, massage the feet gently for a few seconds.
4. Very slowly and gently, stroke your baby’s tummy in a clockwise, circular motion.
5. Repeat step 1.
6. Now for the legs. Lift one leg and encircle the thigh gently in one hand. Stroke down the leg, but just before you get to the foot, place the other hand around the thigh and stroke down with that one. Continue this hand over hand motion several times, then move to the other leg.
7. Repeat step 1.
8.If baby is enjoying the massage, you could try turning them over and repeating steps 1-5. Don’t worry about suffocation - your baby is awake and you are watching them. However, many small babies don’t like being on their tummies, so make sure you pay attention to your baby’s reaction.
9. Wrap your baby in a towel. This has the dual purpose of absorbing excess oil and ending the massage with a cuddle.
Remember, if baby starts to cry at any time, just stop and try again another day.
So that’s it - a simple way to calm both you and your baby. Try building baby massage into your bedtime routine to maximise the relaxing effect and encourage your baby to sleep well. Or perhaps use baby massage as a calming down activity after the excitement of baby groups or visits from relatives and friends. However you decide to use the massage techniques, you will soon start to experience the enormous benefits of baby massage.