Touch and movement is your baby’s first language. Giving a massage can be a relaxing and joyful experience for both you and your baby and is one of the best ways to get ‘in touch’.
During the early months, touch teaches your baby more about life than sight. Massage is a great way for dads to be involved with their baby in an intimate way. Gentle massage strokes help build bonds of trust and intimacy, enhancing feelings of wellbeing and security.
In brief, massage can calm both the giver and the receiver, when performed at an appropriate time. Avoid times of stress and ensure your baby is also in a calm state. Massage can help decrease the occurrence of colic, constipation and irritability, as well as increasing general health and wellbeing which aids in promoting settled sleep. Massage stimulates the flow of nutrients to cells throughout the body, improving the stability of the central nervous system and the resistance to disease. For this reason it is important to not massage your baby if he is unwell or recently had an immunization.
Here are a few basic massage strokes that were demonstrated to me during a Baby Massage Therapy Accreditation Assessment. These steps will get you started with massaging but you may like to look for baby massage accredited instructors in your area to help with more specific massage strokes. before you begin:
1. Organise equipment:
· Suitable infant massage oil for babies under three months - include an organic cold pressed seed or fruit oil, organic coconut oil - nut oils may cause allergy.
· Towel to lie on
· Fresh change of clothes and nappy
· Wipes for cleaning soiled bottom.
2. Creating the right atmosphere:
· Give baby a massage as an activity sometime during the day
· A massage after a bath is often too stimulating and tiring for a newborn, therefore choose another time for young babies
· A massage can be performed on the floor, lap or table
· Silence all phones to ensure minimal interruption
· Ensure the chosen area is a comfortable temperature and draft free
· Use natural light sources to light the room such as candlelight or sunlight
· Play some relaxing music or just have the background sounds of silence.
3. Undress your baby but leave the nappy intact or undone as the cold air will often make him wee!
4. Place a small amount of oil in the palm of your hands and warm it by rubbing hands together.
5. Gain permission to begin by gently applying firm pressure with both warm hands on your baby's naked chest and abdominal area and rock the body from side to side. Permission is granted to proceed when your baby makes eye contact and is settled. If he cries, do not proceed and give him a cuddle instead.
6. Start massaging the head. Perform gentle but firm circular movements with your fingertips either side of an imaginary line drawn down the midline of the head.
7. Proceed by outlining the facial features using firm, slow sweeping movements from the nose to the temple region (useful for sinus relief if he has a cold).
All massage strokes need only be repeated six times each.
8. Use sweeping movements from the chin centre, outward to the earlobes. This movement is useful for relaxing the jaw when bub is not keen to open his mouth prior to a breast feed. Perform small dotting movements to the lower cheek area.
9. Lay both your hands together at the centre of the chest, stroke outwards to each side, simultaneously following the ribcage as if you were flattening the pages of a book. Use more oil as required for your hands to glide over his skin.
10. Next, stroke down the arm from the shoulder to the wrist, one hand following the other. Be careful not to pull bubs shoulder or joint areas. Stop the massage and cuddle them if at any time he cries and is obviously not enjoying your best endeavours. It’s not the right time for him.
11. Open his hand with your thumb and roll each tiny finger with your index finger and thumb.
12. Move to the other side of the body by sliding your hands across to ensure a continuous flow of touch and movement and repeat the steps.
13. Using the flat part of your fingers, walk across the tummy at the navel level, from the left to the right. Use firm circular clockwise strokes over the lower intestinal area. Massaging in this direction aids the flow of juices along the intestinal tube.
14. The leg massage follows the same steps as used on the arms. Add some thumb presses to the sole area of the foot.
15. Gently turn your baby onto his tummy either on the floor or over your outstretched thigh. Keep one hand on his bottom. With the other hand, sweep the contours of the back to meet the hand resting at their bottom.
16. Follow with gentle inward circular movements on his bottom.
17. Leave him to lay and relax before dressing him.
Is your baby ready to start solids soon? Instructions and recipes here.
Settle Petal supports the work of Destiny Rescue
Video footage by Tahnee Wimart