Kissing, tickling, and cuddling… how can you resist that deliciously soft baby skin or the precious giggles and chuckles as your little one responds to your loving touch?
Touch is the first sense to develop, just days after conception and it is important to maintain health and well-being for a whole lifetime. Massage is a lovely way for you to express your love and care for your baby. Massage can soothe your baby and help her sleep. Massage has many added benefits for your baby, including improving weight gain, aiding digestion, improving circulation and easing teething pain. Massage is a great way for you and your partner to bond with your baby, and you may find it relaxing, too!
Although it is difficult to measure the effects of spontaneous touch between parents and babies such as all of the smooching, tickling on tiny tummies, there are a number of studies into early skin to skin contact and baby massage showing amazing benefits for babies.
The best news is that you don’t need to buy expensive equipment or make radical changes to your daily workload.
Skin-to-skin contact between you and you baby at birth has been shown to reduce crying, to encourage mother-baby interaction and it keeps your baby warmer as his body temperature becomes stabilised by your own body.
It also makes breastfeeding easier as your baby is programmed to seek the breast naturally and this close contact will stimulate the release of oxytocin, the hormone that makes your breast milk flow.
If you miss skin to skin cuddles or are separated from your baby immediately after birth, studies of premature babies show that cuddling your little one skin to skin as soon as possible will still have profound effects on bonding, attachment, breastfeeding and your baby’s development.
Of course skin to skin contact is good for baby and you beyond those few precious hours after birth and taking a little time each day to introduce baby massage can be a wonderful time of sharing for either parent.
Massaging your baby stimulates all of your little one’s senses through skin contact, eye contact and your familiar smell as well as hearing your voice and experiencing a focussed response.
A baby massage can be done after your baby’s bath .
Baby Bath routine should look something like this:
Wash your baby’s eyes using a dampened organic cotton ball. Start at the inside corner and wipe outwards. Then, taking a soft, organic face washer, wipe around your baby’s mouth, nose and whole face, paying particular attention to neck creases and behind the ears.
Let baby take a few moments to enjoy the warm water on their skin, the sensation of the bubbles, and staring up at Mum and Dad. Pour cups of water over their body to keep them warm, and swirl, tap and play with the water.
If baby has lots of hair, you may like to wash the hair with a small amount of organic shampoo. You don’t have to avoid washing the fontanels (baby’s soft spots), but do be gentle.
Wash the nappy area last. For a baby girl, wash the genital area from front to back with a soft, organic wash cloth. For an uncircumcised boy, wash the penis and genital area from front to back being careful not to pull back the foreskin.
Being careful to support your baby’s head, neck and back, lift baby swiftly and carefully out of the bath and into a towel. Dry your baby properly in all the creases, as hiding moisture can cause skin irritation. Should you wish to do so, you can apply a little talcum powder to assist with drying the skin.
The important message for bathing your baby is to pick a good time and avoid or postpone bath time when baby is hungry, grumpy or overtired. Bath in a warm room to keep your baby from losing their body heat too quickly, and have everything at your fingertips before.
What is baby massage?
Baby massage is gentle, rhythmic stroking of your baby’s body with your hands. As part of your massage routine, you can also gently manipulate your baby’s ankles, wrists and fingers.
The soothing strokes of your hands stimulate the production of the feel-good hormone oxytocin in you, your baby and even your partner if he’s watching. Oxytocin is the hormone that gives you that warm, loving feeling when you hold your baby close or breastfeed her.
Reasons to give baby massage a go!
According to the International Association of Infant Massage, there is both research and anecdotal evidence from families which shows that there are many ways that babies and parents may benefit from baby massage.
Benefits for Babies
It is never too late to begin massage. Whether your baby is a newborn or several years old, massage can bring immediate and lasting results. Expectant parents who take infant massage instruction in advance are ready to begin this wonderful loving touch right from the start.
Benefits for infants, babies and children include the following:
- Provides a special time of communication that fosters love, compassion, and respect
• Improves general well-being
• Provides an intimate time for children to confide in parents
• Improves overall functioning of the gastrointestinal tract
• Promotes relaxation and helps babies self-regulate calm, which reduces crying
• Helps to normalize muscle tone
• Improves circulation
• Enhances immune system function
• Improves midline orientation
• Helps to improve sensory and body awareness
• Enhances neurological development
• Helps baby/child to sleep deeper and more soundly
• Helps to increase oxygen and nutrient flow to cells. Improves respiration
• Helps to improve pain management; can relieve discomfort from teething,
• Helps with congestion, gas, and colic
• Enhances release of hormones in the body. The growth hormone can be stimulated which helps weight gain.
• Reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone
• Provides all of the essential indicators of intimate parent-infant bonding and attachment: eye-to-eye, touch, voice, smell, movement, and thermal regulation.
• Stimulates all of the physiological systems. Massage sparks the neurons in their brains to grow and branch out to encompass other neurons.
Your midwife, maternal health nurse or medical professional can advise you on the best oil to use for your baby but definitely avoid using oils which are meant for adult use or adult massage, they are not suitable for babies. Choose an oil which is free from petrochemicals, mineral oil, and artificial fragrances or heavy scents. A natural edible plant-based oil, as recommended by the Infant Massage Association, is best.
Mums who prefer not to use an oil may like to choose a baby moisturiser as a massage lotion instead. The moisturising properties of shea butter, cocoa butter combined with nourishing organic oils make a lovely non-greasy alternative.
Dads, you may not be able to breastfeed, but baby massage can more than make up for that bonding experience. Carve out some special daddy-baby bonding time each day in the form of a relaxing massage. Your baby will enjoy gazing into your eyes, breathing in your familiar smell, listening to your voice and the gentle feel of your touch. One study found that baby massage can decrease the amount of stress experienced by new fathers. As fathers seek to form meaningful and lasting bonds with their new babies, baby massage can help to achieve this whilst also providing other benefits to the baby. Fathers who regularly massage their babies are more likely to be met with smiles and eye contact. This can help to improve confidence, as well as strengthen their bond.
Steps in Giving Your Baby A Massage
Set up a quiet, warm space. Sit comfortably and relax by breathing deeply.
Time to get started!
1. Massage Baby’s Legs and Feet
One leg at a time, cup your hands and alternating your hands (one supports baby’s ankle as the other strokes) ‘milk’ baby’s leg from hip to ankle. Firmly stroke baby’s sole from heel to toes then roll each toe. Finish by stroking both legs together from hips to ankles.
2. Massage Baby’s Stomach
With one hand following the other, massage baby’s stomach in continuous clockwise circles (following baby’s colon as this is the direction the food travels).
3. Massage Baby’s Chest
Place both hands on baby’s chest. With fingers flat, stroke up baby’s sternum, around the top of the chest, out to the shoulders, then back down to the bottom of your baby’s sternum, making a heart shape. Then, stroke gently outwards over baby’s shoulders.
4. Massage Baby’s Arms and Hands
‘Milk’ the arms one at a time, from shoulder to fingertips, then massage baby’s hands by pressing your own thumbs into his palm, before gently squeezing and rolling each finger. If baby’s hands are clenched shut, stroke or kiss the back of his hand to encourage him to open his hand.
5. Massage Baby’s Face
With both hands supporting baby’s head, make gentle circles on baby’s scalp. Then, with flat fingers, stroke from the centre of the forehead out to the temples. With your fingertips, massage in small circles around baby’s jaw.
6. Massage Baby’s Back
Roll baby over onto his tummy or (if he resists tummy time) place him on his tummy (with his arms forward) across one of your thighs. With one hand on baby’s bottom, swoop your other hand from baby’s shoulders to buttocks.
Finish by lightly ‘combing’ baby’s back with your fingertips, from shoulders downwards, alternating hands. Gradually stroke lighter and slower, then finish by placing your hands on your baby’s back and breathe slowly with your baby.
Just like adults, babies also don’t like to be massaged if they aren’t in a good or happy mood. If your baby frowns, turns away or cries on being touched, postpone the massage session.it is not necessary to massage the whole body every time. Follow the indications given by your baby. Sometimes rubbing the hand and feet is sufficient to relax and benefit your baby.
A massage given by a mother does convey the love of a mother to a child and in turn the bond grows deeper and deeper day by day.
Enjoy this beautiful bonding moment’s with you beautiful baby, as you start. Don’t forget the camera!