As a new dad, with no experience of a baby before apart from whanging my sister's dolls out of the way by their arms when we were much much younger, knowing that a baby was arriving imminently was quite scary and no amount of antenatal classes, even with life like dolls, could really offer the reassurance that I was looking for. When the big day actually comes and you get to hold your baby, it's likely that a wave of panic will wash over you as you wonder if you are holding them carefully enough, if you have remembered how to change the nappy from all of those classes you attended or if you have got this tiny human (your human - one that you are actually responsible for) supported in all of the right places.
You might be different but my little ladies seemed to cry when I picked them up mainly because I don't have the milk and they want the milk. They always want the milk. But, I have found ways of overcoming these anxieties and relished the opportunity to affirm a father-baby bond by taking the lead in things such as bath time and most especially doing a bit of massage too. I'm quite partial to a massage myself so when I thought about it, I reckoned I had the skills to have a go at it with the little ones. Who was I kidding? I hadn't got the foggiest where to start. Honestly though, you don't need skills, it's just about taking some time out of the schedule to have some quiet time with your baby helping them to settle. For me, it was about becoming a bit more confident with handling the little wrigglers!
Research suggested to me that baby massage was a good way to establish a bond with the girls so I gave it a go. With both babies, I have chosen the dusky light of after bath time when the house was quiet and when baby wasn't feeling overly energetic. With our latest arrival, I'd made sure she'd fed so an empty tummy wasn't on her mind (a rookie mistake the first time around) and I'd checked that the room was warm, not too brightly lit and that she was placed on a surface that was flat (my research had guided me to take these steps in preparation). I jest about skills. I hadn't got any idea what I was doing really but just taking some time out to feel more confident in handling baby and talking and singing to her while I rubbed her toes and the souls of her feet initially was reassuring for me. I used a massage oil that was rich in omega natural oils. It wasn't scented like some oils because I had learnt from my reading about how sensitive a baby's ability to smell out mommy is, so anything too overpowering wouldn't be too enjoyable for a baby. I was hopeful that she wouldn't be too slippery when we'd finished for fear of losing any grip (a bit like a live fish) but after making sure that I'd warmed the oil in my hands before starting the massage meant that there wasn't a heavy residue left over yet her skin was still soft and nourished. My dad hands are looking quiet refreshed now too. When both of our girls were born they had some dry skin but I have found that using the oil has helped to ease this. When deciding which oil to use, I was very keen to ensure that it was gentle enough for newborn skin with no nasties!
On my first attempt, I have to admit it was just about getting to grips with keeping her amused and hoping that she wouldn't start to cry. With my toes crossed (my fingers were too slippery in the oil to cross), I set about gently massaging her feet and legs with gentle but firm strokes. As I've read up on it more and more, I've begun practising a few different routines and have realised that there are huge benefits to this massage malarky which not only include the bonding that I initially set out to achieve but massage can also help to settle an over energised baby, to ease symptoms of colic or wind and to help your little ones on the journey to recognising how their body actually works i.e. 'o my arm is connected to my shoulder, which is connected to my chest - I think there's a song about this...) So, all in all, it's brought great benefits to me and my confidence as well as my ability to calm the little one when she just can't get to the milk.
There are lots of websites and books out there to help you learn about the right way to do baby massage as well as classes and, as I indicate, I'm no expert but what I can say is that it's been good for me and, after my first few attempts, I was far more confident. But, I still don't swing either of the girls around by their arms like I did with my sister's dolls!
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