Baby massage is really beneficial for both you and your child
Not only can it help you both to bond as you share this quiet and precious time that’s set aside just for the two of you but it can also help relieve some minor baby ailments too.
Your newborn has been used to being cradled inside your tummy, so the big wide world will feel unfamiliar. Babies respond well to touch because it reassures them and reminds them of their time being rocked and soothed inside you. Their sense of touch is highly developed and they respond physically and emotionally to it.
Massage is also great for getting used to handling a small, wriggly tot, as you can lie your little one on the floor or a bed and kneel down, without worrying about them falling.
If your child had a difficult birth, has health problems such as colic, or is a poor sleeper, massage can be a useful tool to help soothe them.
As our expert Kath Frame explains: “Newborn health issues such as colic can be eased by massage. It can also help the lymphatic and circulatory systems and be beneficial to the heart, respiratory and digestive systems. Some of the strokes used in baby massage are designed to ease the digestive system.”
When can I start?
You can start massaging your little one from day one – though you might not feel quite up to it then! It’s never too soon to start. You might consider going on a course or attending classes with other mums and a massage expert first rather than just having a go yourself – though you don’t necessarily have to attend a course.
To find a qualified instructor, contact the International Association of Infant Massage (iaim.org.uk), or get started with these tips from our expert.
- Try to give your little one a short massage each day; if that’s not possible, try for once or twice a week. You are doing this ‘with’ your baby, not ‘to’ your baby, so it’s a special time for you, too.
- Firstly, before you begin, make sure your child is receptive. If he’s hungry (or too full up), tired or unsettled, it’s not a good time to start, so wait until he is giving you positive cues.
- Choose a time when you’re both calm – many people like to offer a massage just before bath time, when he’s getting tired but is still alert enough to enjoy it.
- Choose a quiet and warm room (at least 24°C) where you can dim the lights to help your little one relax. If it’s cold or your baby dislikes being touched
- too much, you can massage over light clothing like a babygrow.
- Place your baby on a folded towel, perhaps with a pillow underneath. Let him lie on his tummy too, as this is good to allow him to get used to different positions and for development.
Simple techniques to try at home
These are some of the basics for baby massage
Knees up, knees down
Gently push your baby’s knees up towards the tummy, then straighten the legs.
Good for: Improving circulation and sending oxygen around the body. This helps relax the muscles and support the lymphatic system for the removal of waste products.
Put one hand at the bottom of your baby’s ribcage on one side, slide it to the opposite shoulder, give it a gentle squeeze. Do on the other side and repeat each side four times. Good for: helps expel mucus from the lungs, great for when baby has a cold or catarrh.
The water wheel
Gently stroke your little one from the bottom of his ribcage to the top of his legs with alternating hands – so just over the tummy area. Repeat this six times. Good for: relaxing your baby’s intestines and helping to soothe colic.
Sun and moon
Draw a circle on baby’s tummy in a clockwise direction with your left hand. Use the right hand to draw a semicircle from 9 o’clock to 5 o‘clock. Repeat six times. Good for: trapped wind; clockwise motion lets air pockets move through the colon.
Top tips for successful massage
Listen to your little one’s cues. Babies are good at letting you know if they are enjoying it. If he cries or looks uncomfortable, stop.
Stop your massages if your child is unwell and also after immunisations.
You can massage baby naked or in a nappy but wrap him in a warm towel and just uncover the bits you’re working on.
Hands should always move in a clockwise direction.
Don’t bend your child’s joints in a direction that’s unnatural. Use soft strokes, not deep massage techniques.
If your baby isn’t keen at first, do try again. It may take him a few times to get used to it, as touch is very beneficial for your baby. Try to enjoy it yourself too – this is time for you and your baby.
Five baby friendly massage oils
Proven safe for delicate young skin
(Left to right) Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Nourishing Baby Oil 115ml £10.99; Kiehl’s Nurturing Oil For Mom and Baby 125ml £18; Weleda Calendula Baby Oil 200ml £10; Green People Orgnanic Babies Nurturing Baby Oil, Scent Free 100ml £12′ Neal’s Yard Remedies Pur Baby Oil 50ml £7.50.