Baby massage is a truly wonderful thing, not just for your baby but also for you. It provides a little oasis of peace and togetherness, a chance to bond and to cocoon yourselves from the frenetic outside world.
We were alarmed to read a report in the Journal of Translational Psychiatry suggesting that using smartphones to text or email while you’re caring for your baby can disrupt infant brain development. It’s tough being a mom – we’ve been there and we know how much juggling it requires. Making time in the day for baby massage is the perfect cue to put down the phone and just ‘be’.
Moms who massage say that it makes them feel closer and more attuned to their babies. They find it relaxes them, as well as their babies. Midwives and health visitors are keen to encourage it too, saying that baby massage has a host of benefits: balancing respiration; helping digestion; boosting immune system and blood circulation; building self-esteem and promoting better sleep. Massage stimulates the production of oxytocin, our ‘bonding’ chemical (think of it as the ‘hug hormone’), a natural pain reliever and relaxant.
The science backs it up. Research shows that massaging your baby can help him or her relax – it boosts stress-controlling hormones. “Cortisol levels, a stress indicator, was significantly lower after infant massage,” says a report in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing. As a natural follow-on from that, it helps your baby sleep and has also been shown to reduce crying.
Pick your time. It’s not a good idea to massage your baby just after a feed – unless you’re particularly fond of vomit. Wait at least 30 minutes or, ideally, more. Then take your cue from your baby – never attempt a massage if your child is fretful or restless. Choose a time when your baby is calm and content. Just as we adults might not always be in the mood for a massage, the same goes for your baby. Ask permission! We know that sounds weird but you will soon pick up if your baby is game or is giving off serious ‘back off!’ vibes. Be aware that not every baby will be keen on massage. If yours is one of them, don’t beat yourself up – you’ll find other ways to be close.
You can introduce touch immediately after birth. Start with Kangaroo Care (skin-to-skin contact) – simply place your baby on your bare chest. Yes, both parents can do this! At first just gently stroke your baby’s back and legs. After a few weeks, you can start using oil. Babies are very sensitive to scent so be cautious. Until your baby is two months’ old, just use plain organic sweet almond oil. After that you can introduce some very gentle essential oils to boost the soothing, relaxing power of your massage.
Baby Bonding Massage Blend
(for babies aged two months and over)
- 1 drop Roman Chamomile
- 2 drops Lavender
- Mix well in 30 ml of organic sweet almond oil
How to Massage
- Make sure you’re feeling calm and quietly confident. You may like to anoint yourself with Tension Tonic or Balance to put you in the right frame of mind. If you are feeling uncertain or worried, Optimism is a lovely blend that gently perks you up. Why don’t we suggest Confidence? Well, it’s a wonderful blend but it is has a ‘yang’ or masculine energy about it, and fosters a sharp mind. In this situation we’re looking for a soft ‘yin’ or feminine energy. Mind needs to switch off – we’re looking for an emotional connection.
- Pour a little oil onto your palms and warm it. Now start by placing your baby on her tummy and gently glide your hands over her back, neck, shoulders, thighs, feet and hands. Keep your touch gentle but don’t tickle! Think stroking and gentle kneading. As your baby gets older you will be able to use a firmer touch.
- Turn your baby onto his back and gently extend and flex his arms and legs, first individually and then both together. Keep eye contact and smile! Massage his tummy very gently, his chest, arms and legs. Avoid the genitals.
- Talk to your baby as you massage. Use her name. You might like to sing a favorite song or repeat a favorite mantra. A mantra can be as simple as ‘Relax’ or ‘Calm and happy’ or ‘I love you’.
- Watch how your baby responds and take your cues from his behavior. Jiggling, gurgling, alert yet relaxed baby = continue. Restless, unhappy or turning head away baby = stop and try another time.