I first discovered the benefits of baby massage 7 years ago, when I was a sleep deprived new mother of a baby with colic.
I had already decided not to try any medication, and so I was left trying to research natural methods of colic relief. I spoke to a friend over the phone who had been using massage for colic with her own children, and had found that some specific strokes assisted enormously in easing colic.
She drove to my home and demonstrated the massage strokes…and they worked!
Whilst doing these massage strokes with my son (all hours of the day and night initially) I was able to discover the numerous other benefits of massaging my child. My 7 year old still enjoys a massage now; it relaxes him and serves as a lovely method of silent communication between us.
Sometimes it encourages him to talk about his difficult day at school. It helps him fall asleep and decreases his stress levels.
I also massage him to relieve stomach aches and to treat colds/congestion. Massage has taught me to never underestimate the power of simple touch
Here is what research shows us about massaging your child:
Benefits for baby:
- Helps baby to relax and to feel calmer and happier (massage releases endorphins in your baby)
- Colic relief
- Relief from an array of physiological issues (such as stomach ache)
- Helps premature babies gain weight
- Is thought to boost immunity
- Helps brain development
- Can help familiarise babies with a routine, for example: first we have a warm bath, then a massage and then (hopefully!) time to sleep
- Body awareness
- Nourishing for skin when a natural oil is used
- Benefits for mother/parent/caregiver:
- Important bonding between parent/caregiver and child
- Communication (baby will often respond with a smile for you)
- Can reduce post natal depression.
- Parent gets more rest as a massaged baby sleeps more deeply following their massage.
- Great way for new dads to bond with their baby
- Helps to develop confidence as a new parent
The other great thing about massage is that you don’t have to be an expert to reap the rewards. If you wish to attend classes they are happening all over Australia. There are also useful tips on the internet: try www.iaim.org.au
How to massage your baby:
Massage is great after a warm bath or shower. Lay baby on a towel. Choose a natural plant based oil such as sweet almond, sunflower or even coconut oil if you have some at home (do not a mineral oil as it is too drying for a baby’s skin, plus is usually artificially scented).
Fragrance free oils are best, especially for new babies. As babies grow, there are three essential oils that are safe to use: lavender, chamomile and mandarin oil. Always make sure that the oil you use has been diluted appropriately by someone qualified. Essential oils are very acidic and will irritate skin if too strong.
Make sure your baby is warm and then always remember to tell your baby what you are about to do for example “Hello Zac, can I give you a massage now?” Of course they won’t respond verbally when they are young, however, it teaches children in the long run that people need permission to touch their bodies at any age. As they get older, you may notice non-verbal responses in your baby when you ask their permission.
Make eye contact with your baby during the massage and feel free to talk to them about what you are doing “I am massaging your arms” or “I love you so much!” Using a small amount of oil (slightly warmed in your hands) start to glide your hands gently over your baby’s body. Start at the top with their face and then gradually, using very light pressure, move down their body to the arms and hands, chest, tummy and legs and feet.
The general direction of massage strokes should be always towards the heart. You can try massaging in a circular motion, very lightly on the tummy and for the legs, massage upward.
Take deep breaths yourself when you massage and focus on being in the moment with your baby.
Guest article by Sam Crosby
Photo by Filip Mroz