Baby massage is not a new practice, it has been going on for thousands of years in some cultures. However the benefits have been more recently proven through research. Baby massage can help soothe and reassure your little one and is good for both the baby and the parents, helping to create strong bonds.
We are now learning that touch is really our first language to communicate with our babies. That gentle sense of touch is so important for premature and small babies, they have even introduced 'kangaroo care' - skin on skin contact between parent and baby. Research has shown that this helps small babies grow stronger, sleep and smile more and feel less anxiety.
To explore the benefits of massage, firstly ensure the room is warm and your baby will not get cold without their clothes. The first few times, choose a time when baby is calm, fed and not too sleepy, although wait a little after a feed so as not to upset their delicate tummy.
Start by undressing your little one, either completely or just their top or bottom at a time if needed to keep them warm. Use a baby specific oil and avoid nut based oils (we like this Mustela one but there are many on the market). Apply the oil onto your own hands first, and then gently massage one part of their body, often beginning with their feet or legs first. If they seem to be enjoying it, slowly move on to other parts of their body including their arms, hands, chest and tummy. For an in depth pictorial guide, check out this link at the Raising Children Network.
If your baby becomes upset or distressed at any time, then be guided by them. Stop, get them dressed and perhaps try again another day. It could just be that they were cold, tired, hungry or overwhelmed.
As your baby grows older, many parents choose to build massage into a nightly bedtime routine to help them relax and unwind for bed. Pinky McKay explains that your aim is to help your baby develop an association between massage and relaxation which you can then use later as a tool to calm them when unsettled. If your baby loves it, why not continue the practise into toddlerhood?
Have you tried baby massage? Share your experiences with us below.
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