One of the simplest ways for new mums and dads to bond with their new baby is via massage. Massage can be as simple as a quick leg and foot rub, whilst you’re changing your baby, or it can be something you do daily after a bath or shower. Having massaged both of my children, I noticed several benefits, the primary one was that giving the massage also calmed me. Massage allowed both of my children to relax and become sleepy. As my children have grown older, I still massage them, as it helps us to feel connected after a busy day at work and school. Massage decreases my children’s stress levels and gives us a wonderful opportunity to talk about the day they’ve had.
Some of the best things about massage are that you don’t have to be an expert; any family member or care giver can participate (like grandparents) and it’s free!
How to massage your baby:
Lay baby on a towel. Make sure the room is nice and warm. 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.
Begin by taking some deep breaths yourself and then ask/ tell your baby what you are about to do, for example “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. If you notice that your baby is restless, or if baby begins to get upset, stop the massage and try another time.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)
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
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
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