The benefits of infant massage explained plus advice on learning massage to help ensure that you and your baby get the most from this bonding experience.
Baby massage is becoming increasingly popular with parents in the UK, but this gentle soothing contact between parent and baby has been part of child rearing in India for generations.
Benefits for you and your child
Suzannah Travis tried baby massage with her third child and she was editing Baby Massage by Dr Alan Heath and Nicki Bainbridge.
She says, 'I found it was the only way I could calm my colicky baby in the early evenings, when she wouldn't stop crying and my brain was frazzled. It stopped me screaming, too.'
As well as calming crying babies, massage can help babies get to sleep and many parents report regular massage helps build a bond between them and their child. Additionally, a study published in 1999 found that baby massage can help women with post-natal depression.
Before you Start
Make sure the room and your hands are warm as babies lose heat very quickly. Lay your baby on a soft, flat surface; a cosy towel or washable blanket are good.
Some parents say they ask their baby if he or she wants a massage first. Not something that will appeal to all, but some baby massage instructors suggest this as a respectful way to start the massage.
During the massage
While you massage make sure the strokes are gentle, not invigorating like a massage you would give and adult, but not so light as to tickle your baby.
Focus on your baby, don't listen to the radio or watch TV at the same time. Some soft soothing music in the background is a good idea if you and your baby find it relaxing.
Things to watch out for
- You need to be relaxed. If you are tense you will pass this on to your baby.
- Use oil as this reduces drag on your babies skin, however patch test first in case your baby is allergic to any of the ingredients in the oil.
- If your baby is not enjoying your massage session, just stop and try again other time.
- Don't massage your baby's tummy before four weeks and avoid his or her spine.
- It is a good idea to delay the massage if your baby ill unwell or has recently been immunised