Everyone loves a massage and babies are no exception. Not only can it be beneficial in terms of relaxing your child, a massage session can give you the chance to bond and have a quiet few moments together. It can also ease minor digestion problems (such as wind) and some mums say massages ease teething pain and congestion on the chest. Massaging a baby’s face has been shown to clear a blocked nose.
For the sake of accuracy though, baby massage should really be called baby stroking as the movement should be gentle. To get started you need to set the scene. If you’ve ever had a professional massage at a beauty parlor you’ll know the lighting is usually dimmed and the music soft and soothing.
Nobody expects you to recreate a salon in your home, but you can help create a calming atmosphere by making sure there are no distractions. Choose a time when you are alone with your baby, switch off your phone to avoid interruption, and put your dog or cat in another room so they dont try to get in on the act! You could play some relaxing music, but whatever you select make sure it is only background music. Your baby needs to be able to hear your voice.
Have everything you need for the massage within reach. You can use special baby massage oil, vegetable oil or olive oil (just make sure it doesn’t contain nuts and is not petroleum-based or heavily scented). You could do a patch test 24 hours before to make sure your baby does not show any allergic reaction. Baby moisturizer works well too. Have a towel or muslin handy to wipe up any spills or excess oil and a fresh nappy and clothing for afterwards.
Place your baby on a warm towel maybe on top of a changing mat, rug or blanket for added padding. Or you can have baby on your lap, but this may not be as easy, especially if baby starts wriggling and is slippery from the oil. You can massage baby while she is naked, or keep a nappy on her or even a little vest if the room is not warm. Little boys are prone to squirting wee when nappies come off, so be prepared. Another important tip is to choose your massage time carefully. If baby is hungry or sleepy or if she has just had a feed, she may not be in the mood.
How to massage
Make eye contact with your baby and talk gently to her or sing. If she appears at all uncomfortable or starts crying, stop the massage and cuddle her instead. Some babies may be puzzled by the new sensation and setting. Apply a little of your chosen oil onto your hands and rub them together to warm it.
Start by gently rubbing your baby’s legs working from the thighs to the knees. Stroke the shins and around her calves and ankles. Very gently squeeze all the way down her legs. Baby’s ankles and feet should be stroked from heel to toe and then you can gently rub around each toe.
Gently stroke down your baby’s chest, following the natural curve of her ribs. Be extra gentle with her tummy by placing your hands flat on it and spreading them to the sides, like you are straightening a duvet cover but with a lighter touch. Turn baby over to start working on her back and begin by stroking down her arms to her fingertips. Squeeze along her arms like you did on her legs (beginning at the top). Don’t forget baby’s neck. She should enjoy you gently massaging from her ears to her shoulders, chin to chest and finally neck to shoulders. Finally make light circular movements on the crown of baby’s head and stroke down her face with a final movement from the center of her forehead out over her eyebrows finishing at her ears. By now your baby should be contentedly relaxed and happy! If you still aren’t sure if you could manage a baby massage ask your GP or health visitor about classes in your area.