I wanted to tell you about a blog post on infant massage which I wrote with Anne Badger for the Blog of one of my students.
The blog is sadly now down and trading has ceased but I thought I would share what Anne and I wrote
Anne and Suzanne run baby massage and shiatsu sessions and teach infant massage instructor classes. There is an online infant massage and shiatsu course at Wellmother.
Also I would love anyone who has studied with me who would like to share about how they are developing their work with pregnant clients. Rebecca has developed a business selling products for skin care for mother and baby as well as doing pregnancy massage. Have a look at her website to find out what she does.
Why massage my baby?
In many societies and cultures, baby massage has been part of baby care-giving traditions passed from parent to child for generations. It has recently become more popular in our society as parents and professionals start to realise its full benefits for both babies and parents.
Many parents, often Mums, attend classes to learn baby massage and whilst a basic routine is helpful, it is important to respect the differences between parents and babies. As a parent, massaging your baby helps you learn more about and respond to your babies’ cues. The important thing to remember is that baby massage is something you do with rather than do to your baby. For some babies a class is great, for others it is nicer to do it as quiet time in your own home.
It can be a lovely way of getting dad involved or it can be a family time or a quiet time for mum and baby. It is a lot about getting to know your baby and yourself. It can be fun, lively, include exercises and stretches, songs and movement or be a space to relax and breathe.
When can I start?
As soon as you feel you want to. Massage in fact begins in the womb. Touch is the first sense your baby develops and already around 8 weeks they are responsive to touch. It is great to massage your belly in pregnancy and already begin to become aware of your baby’s body, and movements and how they respond to your touch and to that of others close to you. Often babies who have received focused touch during pregnancy seem to be very responsive to touch after birth: like we have noticed babies respond to sound.
Of course first touch is often just skin to skin contact and getting to know your baby’s body outside the womb. Mammals lick their babies, we can stroke, touch and caress ours. Sadly often people feel wary of massaging their baby and worry they might do something wrong. Instead of thinking as massage as a particular technique, just think of it as a way of getting to know and communicating with your baby.
How to massage
Number one rule: feel free to try whatever feels right for you and your baby. Your baby will let you know if they are not happy. Of course with younger babies they are going to want less active work and probably more holding style techniques. For older babies the massage can be more lively. However while it is fun to include stretches and movements, it is important that they are appropriate for the developmental stage of your baby.
Gettting started: Handling/moving:
Start with the basics.
How to pick up and move your baby.
In some countries parents are shown the best ways to lift and hold your baby. It doesn’t always come naturally. Most important is to do movements slowly and to support your baby. You don’t want them to startle. Remember they are getting used to a whole new world. Take it easy. With a new born it is best to hold them close to your body while you massage.
With an older baby you can have your baby lying on a towel in front of you and move them more.
Be in a comfortable position: you might want to be sat against a wall with comfortable cushions.
Clothed or unclothed
Decide if you want to undresss them and work with oil or keep their clothes on. It is lovely to get them undressed and have skin contact. Remember their body was covered with a natural oil (vernix) which protected them in the womb. Good oils for babies are vegetable base oils, preferably organic and cold-pressed, which are more natural (Rebecca; you might want to have a link to some of your products here) .
Simple touch over whole body in a quiet soothing way
It is lovely to simply stroke gently all over their body. Exploring the areas they like being touched. Noticing the amount of pressure they like. If they like being held in certain places. How they move and respond.
Try to cover all areas of their body; back and front.
Many parents are concerned about putting their baby “back to sleep” and they forget how important tummy time is for babies development. They need to lie on their tummy to develop their neck and shoulder and back in preparation for sitting and crawling and eventually standing and walking.
If babies aren’t given ‘tummy time’ early on, the harder it is for the baby to lift their head. To start with try putting a squishy pillow or rolled towel under their shoulders or have them on your tummy.
They can be placed over your knees
Or you can have them on a mat in front of you.
You can use this position simply for some play time.
Enjoy communicating with your baby through touching and stroking all over This can be when your baby is very small. It can be at any time of day or when your baby is starting to fall asleep (leave out -trying to sleep). It can be for older children as part of a bed time routine.
See how your baby is responding and next time we can start using some massage strokes. Think about what your baby may need from the massage- does he/she need help settling? Any issues with reflux or wind/colic?
Be lovely to hear what you think.
How did your baby get on with the different strokes? Hopefully you found that you started creating different ways of touching your baby. Maybe your baby liked being touched in certain ways in some places and different ways in others. It can vary depending on the time of day and what kind of mood your baby is in. There is no real right or wrong way. Just what works for you and your baby. Hopefully you began to understand what your baby was telling you about what s/he liked or didn’t like. They perhaps turned away or smiled…or relaxed … or started playing…
How is your baby getting on being on their tummy? Do they like it?
Here are some ideas of some more specific massage strokes. Do remember to keep just doing what your baby likes. This can vary from day to day ; so what your baby likes one day they may not want in the same kind of way another.
Be versatile.Adapt. Each baby is different.
Tummy time continued
As we find many babies these days aren’t being put much on their tummies we thought we would start with some ideas of strokes for the back.
Have your baby on their tummy.
Roly poly baby over and use soft pillow or rolled up towel as support
- Connection Stroke use flat palms and gently stroke from ankles, up legs to buttocks up back over shoulders, down arms and back up arms and down to buttocks and legs again. Repeat twice
- Thumb or finger pad circling all over back and buttocks
- Pitter Patter light tapping with fingertips
- Gentle thumbs down each side of spine
- Gentle Hold one hand below head, and one on sacrum
- Connection stroke to finish
You can include a song while you do some of this
I HEAR THUNDER THUNDER SOUND ON KNEES OR FLOOR
HARK DON’T YOU CONNECTING STROKE UP BACK
PITTER PATTER RAINDROPS LIGHT TAPPING ON BACK
I’M WET THROUGH CAT STROKING
SO ARE YOU CAT STROKING DOWN BACK TO LEGS TO TOES
SCOOP UNDER SHOULDERS AND LIFT
UPPER BACK STRETCH
EXTEND STRETCH IF BABY READY BY
HOLDING UPPER ARMS AND PULLING BACK GENTLY
LIFT BOTH LEGS AND STRETCH UPWARDS
AWAY FROM BODY LIFTING BOTTOM SLIGHTLY
LIKE A WHEELBARROW
BIG KISS AND HUG!
Here are some strokes with the baby on their back
Turn baby over onto their tummy. They can be on your lap, or on towel/mat on floor in front of parent/carer.
Place your hands gently on their tummy.
Do a hello to front stroke over whole of their front. Flat hands up and over chest, down outside of arms up inside of arms, down sides of body and down legs. Hold feet.
- Gentle shake and pull each leg to start
- Hand over hand stroking from thigh to foot(effleurage)
- Gentle squeezes down leg, from hip to foot, with right hand (stomach meridian) and then up inside of leg (Spleen meridian)with left hand, always supporting ankle with the other hand
- Wring leg from thigh to above knee and then to ankle
- Jelly legs: roll leg between flat palms from thigh to ankle
- Stroke top of foot upwards to open toes and gently pull each toe to tip of nail to ‘this little piggy massage song’
- Small circles (friction) with thumb and first finger around ankles
- Jelly feet: rub each foot between palms of hands briskly
- Connecting effleurage stroke up both legs, over thighs, down back of legs to feet
- Hold sole of foot to finish
You can also do some movements with the legs, these can be done with the baby dressed or undressed.
1; Take both knees to the chest and hold and then stretch legs out. Repeat at least 3 times
2 Bicyling legs is fun. Forwards backwards, faster slower.
3 Stretch legs up and out and cross over
Song for the feet
A lovely song to include for the feet is
Pat feet clap feet together and move across body to pat a cake.
We’ll clap our feet together, We’ll clap our feet together
We’ll clap our feet together, As babies like to do
We’ll roly poly together…………(roly poly with baby’s feet)
We’ll touch our nose together……(gently touch baby’s feet to nose)
We’ll run away together(move baby’s legs in a relaxed run in the air)