Baby massage is a great way to help calm, relax and bond, not only for your baby, but for you too!! As an extension of our instinct to nurture and touch, it’s a good idea to begin massage from birth using gentle strokes. Babies younger than six weeks benefit from a shorter sessions of 5-10 minutes as they may be sensitive to stimulation, although do bear in mind that some babies may not like being naked for very long until they’re around six to eight weeks old.
Once your baby is able to have short relaxed periods in his day, a longer massage will help to relax both of you and provide special time together.
- The best time to practise massage is between feeds when your baby’s tummy isn’t full or after a bath when he’s warm and uncomfortable.
- Make sure the room is warm and draught free and that your hands are clean and warm
- Keep some towels nearby so you can cover parts that aren’t being massaged so he doesn’t get cold
- Don’t forget to have a nappy and some wipes to hand
- You could massage on the bed or floor on some large, soft towels whatever’s comfortable for your back
- Use a vegetable base oil such as grape seed, sesame or almond oil. There are also commercial baby oils specially created for babies.
How to do Baby Massage
Remember that baby massage is something all parents can do without expert tuition, all you need is a warm pair of hands and some time! Just put some oil on your hands and start with long sweeping strokes down across your baby’s body. Try not to break contact and repeat this motion up his body. Keep the pressure gentle but firm and then just do what’s intuitive and be guided by your baby.
Massage often forms part of Parentcraft classes and you can look for baby massage classes in your area, your health visitor is likely to have details. There are also lots of books, websites and videos explaining how to massage.
When shouldn’t baby massage be performed?
There are times when it would not be appropriate to massage your baby. These include;
- During acute infections such as fever, sickness, and diarrhoea
- If he has undiagnosed lumps and bumps
- If he has any contagious disease
- If he is suffering with any serious skin complaints, open sores or inflammation.
- Following surgery
- If he has clicky hips, epilepsy, heart or lung problems
- For the first 72 hours after immunisation.
You should consult your medical professional before practice if your baby is on medication or has any serious medical condition.
You may also feel that there are other times when it is inappropriate to massage your baby. You should always listen to your instincts when deciding whether practice is appropriate.
Baby Massage: Top Tips
- Don’t get hung up on the routine. Listen to your baby and use your instincts.
- Don’t massage if your baby is unwell, has recently had vaccinations or has just had a feed.
- Use the routine at home, after the bath is a nice time as it helps you both unwind and can help the baby to sleep better.
- Use plenty of oil and remove your jewellery.
- Don’t worry about doing it ‘wrong’. You can’t! Each baby and carer are different. Gently touching and being with your baby will benefit you both.
- Relax. Don’t worry if your baby cries, just cuddle them and respond to their needs. It may be that you need to try later or another day.
- Be responsive to their body language and non-verbal cues. They will tell you what you need to know. They may just want their feet massaged today or not want to be on their front – it’s all Ok.
- Use this time wisely. It’s lovely one-on-one bonding time. Don’t get too upset if your baby isn’t interested today.