Baby massage can be a lovely way for new parents to spend time with their baby. Taking part in a warm and relaxing activity with each other is a great way to strengthen family bonding and leave your baby feeling happy and calm.
The health and mental benefits of baby massage are becoming better known as the practice increases in popularity – many health and parenting institutions, including the Royal College of Midwives, endorse it. And baby massage can have valuable knock-on benefits for mum and dad, too.
Here are some of the most commonly-asked questions about baby massage if you're curious, but aren't sure where to start.
What is baby massage?
Baby massage is very gentle, and relies on the instinctive healing power of touch. It isn't like massage for adults, where you're trying to work out knots and stress with firm pressure. Instead, mums or dads use soft, smooth strokes to relax their baby and ease any discomfort they may be suffering from, for example, wind, colic or teething.
What are the positive effects of baby massage?
The list is endless! Massage can ease common ailments like colic or wind, while applying massage techniques to specific areas, like the sinuses or gums can ease problems associated with those areas – like a cold or teething pain.
Baby massage has also been linked to a whole host of other benefits, such as improving circulation, encouraging weight gain and stimulating mental and emotional development.
And are there benefits for mum and dad, too?
Plenty. For one thing, a relaxed baby is less likely to fuss, cry or become worked up when it's time for bed, which is great for mum and dad, too!
The bonding experience can also be valuable for dads or other family members who don't have the hands-on experience of breastfeeding, or for mums suffering from milder forms of postnatal depression who are struggling to connect with their baby (of course, mums who suspect they may be suffering PND should seek medical advice as soon as possible).
Can I try baby massage on a newborn?
Yes! Baby massage is very gentle, so there is no reason why it can't be practised from birth (for premature babies, wait until their due date before you start, and consult a doctor if they are very delicate). Do I need any special equipment?
Baby oil or moisturiser are all you need to get started. Avoid scented or perfumed products, as well as ones containing petroleum or nuts (but most baby products will already meet these criteria).
You'll probably want to put a towel under your baby to keep them comfy and prevent leaving any oily marks on your surfaces. And, of course, make sure the room - and your hands - aren't chilly!
Any tips on how to do it?
The key is long, smooth gentle strokes. Support joints like the wrists and ankles with one hand while massaging. Some parents like to sing or play music while they massage their baby.
You may well find that the knack comes to you intuitively. If not, the NCT has published a detailed set of instructions for basic massage techniques for the legs and feet which you may find useful.
To find trained instructors or classes in your area, or to become an instructor yourself, you can check out Childways or the International Association of Infant Massage, which offer courses throughout the UK.
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