Sister Lilian's top tips for baby massage
The benefits of baby massage are endless. First, touch is so important for the healthy development of babies. It helps them to grow physically and emotionally. The more you hold, touch and massage your baby- the more she’ll thrive. Baby massage can also help your newborn sleep better, boost her overall health and help you bond with your little one.
Steps to start your baby massage
- Make sure that there are no distractions, and play soft, soothing music.
- You’ll need a soft, firm surface to massage your baby on. You should be comfortable, with your back should be straight, especially when you bend forward. Start by sitting on the floor with your baby in front of you. You can sit on a cushion with your legs crossed; kneel on a cushion on the floor, and place a cushion on your calves under your buttocks; or sit on a cushion with your legs outstretched on either side of your baby.
- Once you’re ready to start, take off your baby’s clothes and nappy and lie her down in front of you, with her feet towards your body.
- The room temperature should be comfortable. If you’re completely comfortable in short sleeves, it should be alright for your baby without any heating required. In very warm areas, you can massage your baby outside.
- Lay her on a clean, soft towel. Keep in mind that the massage oils may stain a carpet or your clothes.
- Use easily-absorbed pure oils with a gentle fragrance, in easy-to-dispense.
Baby massage strokes
The smaller your baby is, the lighter the strokes you should use. However, little ones don’t like tickling sensations so don’t go too light. One hand should be in contact with your baby at all times, and remember to keep eye contact to make her feel safe and secure. This also helps to promote a better bonding experience.
Use light strokes and keep it short and simple. You can rub her tummy if she’s lying on her back (and vice versa) or stroke her head and face if you’re holding her. Combine this with singing softly to her. A wonderful technique is to slowly and lightly stroke her feet from just above her ankles, downwards toward the toes, using both hands, almost not touching.
For older babies
Try to incorporate touch in games that focus on the different areas of the body, for example, ‘farmyard’ on the legs and arms, and ‘milk the cow’, or you could be a fairy ‘walking’ around the child’s abdomen and chest, or ride bicycle with her legs (remember to check ‘the pedals’ – massage her feet with your fingertips).
You can also count her fingers with your thumbs, moving from the palm of her hand to the tip of each finger. You can also roll a small massage ball up and down and around the various areas. Use your imagination, and you’ll develop your own techniques, taking your baby’s preferences into account.
When is the best time to massage my baby?
- After bath time is ideal. If you bath your baby in the early evening, it can also help her to relax and sleep better. You can either massage her after the bath, or while you’re soaping her body.
- Don’t massage your baby within an hour after feeding, as this can induce vomiting. However, don’t wait until she’s hungry, as she’ll be unsettled and unable to enjoy the experience.
Nappy changing is a also a good time, especially when babies are a bit older and it’s hard to get them to stay still.
- Using playtime for massage works very well when babies are older and don’t want to lie down for long enough.
Top massage tips to keep in mind
- Make sure that you’re relaxed and feeling calmly confident. If you’re stressed, your baby will sense it and react to your feelings.
- Massage incorporates all the senses, and is something that a baby should get used to gradually. To avoid over-stimulation and exhaustion, don’t introduce all massage techniques at once.
- Allow approximately half an hour for a massage. As you learn to understand your baby’s likes and needs, shorter sessions of 15–20 minutes are possible and still valuable.
- Never do a full touch session if your baby has a fever.’
- When choosing massage oil, always do a patch test to exclude sensitivities. Apply some oil on a patch of skin on the inside of your baby’s arm. If no reaction develops within 24 hours, it should be safe.
- If your baby is allergic to nuts, or if a strong family history of nut allergies is present, be sure to use nut-free products.
- Avoid using essential oils (aromatherapy oils) to massage your baby, unless under the supervision of a trained aromatherapist.
- Oil can make your baby slippery, so take care not to drop her. After massaging, wrap your baby in a towel before carrying her around.
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