Human beings have five incredible senses; sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. We use these fantastically important senses every single day of our lives, and that includes the day we are born. Although newborns can’t see too well until their eyes become fully focused (at around 6 to 8 months), their hearing isn’t fully developed (until around one month old), and their taste buds only encounter milk until weaning begins, their other senses are already helping them to understand the world around them, which is essential for healthy growth and development.
Their other senses being smell and touch. And smell, although useful, will only account for a small percentage of a child’s ability to learn.
It is, perhaps, touch then that has the most profound impact on a child from the very start. When adults interact with a small child, they often automatically reach out to touch or stroke the baby, and certainly when holding the child they are stimulating the situation with the sense of touch. As soon as a baby is born, they are handed to their mother for skin to skin bonding. This isn’t just about holding a gorgeous newborn; this is about comfort and love and for your child to learn who is there to protect them from the start.
So baby massage, with its emphasis on gentle touching and soothing, is the next logical step for any parent who wishes to add another element to their child’s daily routine. An element that has many benefits other than simply being a pleasant thing to do (although that is certainly the case!).
Is Baby Massage Right for You and Your Baby?
There is nothing quite like the touch of another human being. A hug, a caress, a massage. Just being held is a wonderful experience that lowers blood pressure and makes both parties feel happy and secure. Babies may not understand everything that is going on around them, but they do understand the people who love them when they make literal contact with them. Sometimes that is all they need to know.
Amazingly, a newborn can soon distinguish between which parent is actually cuddling them, and their response is different depending on whether it is Mummy or Daddy.
And of course, baby massage allows for uninterrupted quiet time with your baby, which, in these busy days can sometimes be overlooked.
Although baby massage has been proven to strengthen the bond between the parent and child, will give your child confidence, calmness, and peace, and will even help your baby sleep well (and for longer), there are other fantastic reasons for getting involved in baby massage. These include easing the pain of wind, colic, or reflux, soothing eczema, and other skin complaints, and, for you, helping with symptoms of postnatal depression.
How To Start
You do not need any professional qualifications in order to begin soothing and relaxing your child, although it can be a slightly daunting idea at first. There are specific baby massage classes that are often run by local parent and child groups, and these can be very useful in giving you the confidence to get started. But don’t worry, there is no ‘one way’ to massage your baby. Do what seems right for you.
To start, you need to be in the right frame of mind. You need to be relaxed. You need to be calm. You need to be in a quiet, darkened space with no distractions and no chance of being disturbed (otherwise all your good work will be undone in seconds!). Make sure the television is off, your phone is elsewhere, and you are not playing any loud music. The idea is to keep the massage room in dim light. Speak in whispers if possible. Before you bring your baby into the room, make sure everything is ready, including a blanket or towel for them to lie on (a towel is good if you are using oils, as it can be washed easily), a fresh nappy, and warm clothes or another blanket for cuddling up in after the massage.
Although it may feel strange at first, it is good to talk to your baby about what you are planning to do – as time goes by, they will associate the sound of your words (and eventually the words themselves) as the start of their massage time, and they will automatically become more relaxed and receptive. Before you touch each part of their body, say that you are going to do so (“I’m now going to touch your arm”, for example), and ask whether it is all right. You are building trust by doing this, even though your baby won’t be able to speak back to you to begin with. Since that is the case, it is essential that you watch your baby as you begin to massage them; if their reaction is not good, stop immediately. And never massage a poorly baby.
Massage is not simply a purely physical thing; it is emotional too, and it causes an attachment through touch. Massaging your child benefits you as it brings you closer to your baby, and it benefits the baby since it makes them more relaxed and content. Just enjoy the moment, and don’t worry about what is next on the agenda, or the washing up, or where you have to be at a certain time, or any of the other dozen things on today’s to do list. They are for later. Keep massage time purely as a moment of serenity for you and your baby, and enjoy it.
Massage increases blood flow, which in turn increases the number of endorphins that are present within the body. Endorphins are mood enhancing hormones that make us feel happy and puts us in a good mood. Not only that, but massage soothes pain and can ease constipation, wind, colic, and reflux. It improves oxygen flow which eases muscles and joints. And as a bonus, massage boosts the immune system too! With all these health benefits, baby massage is a wonderful way to keep your child fit and well in a way that will also strengthen the bond between you.
So why wait? Even if your child is older than newborn, introducing massage is still a great idea, and one that will become a fun, enjoyable part of your daily routine. If you need any advice or support, please do get in touch www.mummaloveorganics.com – we’re always happy to help.