There are lots of different ways to bond with your baby, through talking, singing,
feeding, and, of course, cuddling your little one. Before babies learn to speak with words, one of the key ways you can communicate with your child is through touch.
Baby massage is one of the earliest – and easiest - things you can do for your baby, and it’s a great way to bond.
“Baby massage is a good way to relax your baby, both while in the bath and
afterwards if they are still relaxed and calm,” says parenting expert and maternity nurse, Lisa Clegg, of The Blissful Baby Expert.
“There are lots of classes available locally, which are well worth signing up to. They will give you tips on the best techniques, so you and your baby get the most from it.”
Massaging your baby is something you can also do at home – every day for a few minutes, or once a week as a nice, relaxing treat for you and baby.
There are many reasons you should give it a try. Here are the benefits of baby massage as well as some top tips on how to do it yourself. Moisturising creams at the ready!
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If you – like thousands of other parents out there – are having problems getting your little one to sleep, it turns out baby massage can help. Research from the University of Warwick
in 2006 found that baby massage can help infants aged six months and under to sleep better, as a result of the release of melatonin, which massage promotes. Looking at various studies of massage, researchers also established that massage helps babies to cry less and feel less stressed (infants who were massaged had lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol compared to infants who weren’t).
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Not only does massage benefit the baby, but a study published in the Journal of Perinatal Education
in 2011 also found that it can be good for fathers, too.
Since fathers sometimes struggle to form that close bond with baby in the early days (especially if babies are breastfed and often attached to mum as a result), researchers posited that infant massage might increase bonding with newborns. Scientists found that not only does infant massage help dads feel closer to their little ones, but it also significantly reduces paternal stress.
So why not let other family members and caretakers in baby’s life, from siblings and babysitters to uncles, aunts and grandparents get in on the action, too? Baby massage can help everyone bond with the new arrival and contribute to baby’s well-being.
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If your baby is crying, and you know they’re not hungry, tired, gassy, too hot or too cold, or complaining about a dirty nappy, it can be frustrating. Cuddling or rocking your baby is a common technique to try and soothe them, and according to NHS Guidelines
, baby massage can work, too.
The NHS recommends undressing baby and massaging them gently. Try stroking their back "firmly and rhythmically." The best way to hold them? Up against you, or place them face down onto your lap.
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Recent research from the University of Manchester
found that it does matter which products you use on your baby’s skin when you massage them. The research determined that using sunflower or olive oil on baby skin can damage the barrier which prevents water loss and blocks allergens and infections – which could lead to developing skin conditions such as eczema.
Instead of using olive oil, which can irritate baby’s skin, an emollient product like Oilatum Junior Cream
is great for hydrating and soothing newborn skin. The product is suitable for use from day one of your infant’s life, is fragrance-free and helps to soften and rehydrate dry and eczema-prone skin. When massaging baby, be sure to smooth the emollient cream onto the skin instead of rubbing it, advises the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
. Patting the cream in can prevent any further skin aggravation that may be caused by rubbing.
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According to the NCT
, baby massage has myriad benefits, from helping mums feel more confident with their infants to helping baby’s muscles relax through the release of feel-good hormone oxytocin (good for both baby and mum). But trying to massage your baby when they’re hungry or tired, or you’re feeling stressed, won’t be relaxing for anyone. Instead, try integrating baby massage as part of your post-bath, wind down routine.
Choose a comfortable position, make sure the room is a cosy temperature, undress your baby and start chatting about what you’re planning to do (they’ll love the eye contact and the communication, even if they can’t understand the words).
You can start by stroking baby’s legs – the NCT recommends holding the ankle with one hand and then sliding the other down the leg, from the thigh to the ankle, in a "milking" action.
Once you have done both legs you can move down to the child’s feet, stroking the sole from heel to toes, then "milking" up in the opposite direction, from ankle to thigh.
To massage baby’s chest, smooth your hands out to the sides. Then move down to the tummy, working clockwise in a circular motion to follow the path of digestion. You can then stroke baby’s back side to side or up and down