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Introduction to baby massage

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Introduction to baby massage

Dion Van de Kamp

The experience of massage for both you and your baby can be so rewarding. From the benefits on baby's vital systems to things like teaching them the importance of communication, it can be a key part of building your relationship together as well as their physical and mental development.

Baby massage isn't just about feeling nice and relaxed (although, that can be the best part!), it's a wonderful way to connect with your baby daily and it can have a range of benefits on their circulation, nervous, immune and digestive vital systems.

On top of all of that, it's a great tool to help embed some communication behaviours with your baby. Especially during the early days while their eyes are still adjusting, babies thrive on their other senses like touch and sound. It’s how they communicate.

Asking your baby permission to give them a massage can let them know that they're in control of their body from an early stage. While they may not be talking away just yet, we can give them some queues that signal a massage is on the way.

Creating this space to massage your baby each day, to nurture and to care for your baby will establish wonderful bonding relationships between you.
— Mel, Qi Rhythm

Here’s what you’ll need before you get started:

  1. Pillow.
  2. Towel.
  3. Swaddle.
  4. Basic ingredient oil. Sunflower, olive, coconut oil are best. Try to stay away from nut oils.
  5. Warm hands!
The ideal state to massage your baby in is the ‘quiet/alert’ state, and this is where the baby’s body is feeling very still and settled but in their face they’re awake and they’re alert.
— Mel, Qi Rhythm

Start by creating a nice, warm environment for your baby to relax in. Making sure you have things like soft lighting, nice quiet music and no distractions. These will serve as the queues to your baby that a massage is on its way.

Create a little bend in a pillow on your lap for baby to lay in and make them feel secure. Once their top half is swaddled up and their lower body undressed you’re ready to ask for permission. If you're not sure how to swaddle, watch our tutorial here.

By this stage, you’ve given baby some signs or queues that a massage is on the way. If your baby shows signs of disengagement like crying, blocks with their hands, looks away or is generally not interested then don't go ahead with the massage. This is their way of telling you that they don’t want one right now. Try again in a few hours or when they’re a little less stimulated.

To proceed with the massage, baby should be content, smiling and cooing, etc. Over time you may get an idea of the best times that usually suit your baby.

Steps:

  1. Hold baby’s legs firmly to begin, allowing them to move freely under your hands.
  2. Glide hands from their hip to their toes.
  3. ‘Hug and glide’: squeeze their leg, release and rotate.
  4. Press the pads of your thumbs into baby’s heal and move them toward their toes.
  5. ‘Toe wiggle’: roll each toe.
  6. Press your index finger into the ball of baby’s foot (lung reflexology point).
  7. Place the pads of your thumbs into the arch of baby’s foot and hold for a couple of seconds (digestive reflexology point).
  8. ‘Thumb over thumb’: rotate your thumbs on top of baby’s foot.
  9. Circle your thumbs gently on their ankles.
  10. ‘Back toward heart’: create a ring with your fingers around baby’s leg and slide it up toward their heart.
  11. Gently role baby’s legs in your hands.
  12. Softly stroke down baby’s legs with your hands.
  13. Thank baby for receiving the massage.

Remember, stop when baby is feeling too stimulated and comfort them with a containment hold on their chest or legs.

If you’re just tickling touching and doing a very light touch, baby might get quite stimulated. However If you’ve got a nice solid hand wrapped around those legs, they’ll be much more responsive to being relaxed.
— Mel, Qi Rhythm

FAQ's

How often should I be massaging my baby?
Every day is ideal for newborn babies; when your baby starts crawling they will be doing a lot of work them selves, building muscle and strength. At this point you could do less if you’d like, however the bonding and the rhythm is still so important and beneficial, so it will do a world of good to continue daily if you’re both enjoying it.

Can we do this same sequence of strokes for older toddlers and children?
Yes, it’s great to continue to use this sequence as they grow up or for their older siblings. Older siblings might feel left out when a new baby arrives so try to include them in the massage time too. Perhaps a family member could massage one and you the other, or maybe the older child would like to massage their doll while you massage the baby.

How long should the massage go for?
It will vary from baby to baby, to begin with your baby may only be able to receive 2-5 minutes. Each time you massage (providing you are choosing the right time of day for them) the length of the massage should increase until you are able to give around 20 minutes of massage. Be guided by what your baby wants and reach out for help if you need it.