Who doesn’t love a massage?
The perfect way to relax and unwind at the end of the day; a massage can soothe your achy muscles, reduce tension and help you switch off and clear your mind before bed. What you may not realise however is that as appealing as massage can be for us grown-ups, massage can actually help your baby sleep better too!
Not only can baby massage help calm, comfort and reassure your baby before bed, but can be a positive bonding experience for you to share with your newborn, providing a mindful and relaxing activity that you both can enjoy together. Your baby’s sense of touch is incredibly heightened, so being able to look into your face as you gently rub their feet, legs, arms and tummy can improve their emotional attachment and help them get to know you better.
The benefits of baby massage are fairly substantial. A study from 2004 found that babies in intensive care who were given baby massage spent less time in hospital, with better scores on developmental tests and fewer postnatal complications.
When should I massage my baby?
For baby massage to be effective, you should choose a time that your baby is calm and relaxed and avoid attempting it when your baby is hungry, too tired or immediately after a feed.
Many parents opt to conduct baby massage immediately following their baby’s bath. This is a good time as your baby will begin winding down before bed and it can be done as a regular part of the bedtime routine, drying and massaging their skin before they get into their sleepsuit.
What should I know before I massage my baby?
Whilst it is possible to massage your baby on the bed, it may be easier (and safer!) to do so on the floor. Lay down a changing mat or comfortable towel and place your baby between your legs – this will give you easy access to their legs and torso whilst ensuring they can look up and see your face at all times.
If your baby is under a month old, you should avoid using any oils or lotions during a baby massage as their skin will still be incredibly sensitive. As your baby gets older, however, coconut oils or petroleum-based lotions can be a popular choice; as they can also help moisturise your baby’s skin and reduce the impact of skin conditions such as eczema.
You should remove any jewellery and your watches before you begin, to reduce both a cold shock and the risk of accidentally scratching their skin, and if you are using oils, you may want to do a small skin test before the first time, in case of any allergic reaction.
How do I massage my baby?
Baby massage involves gently stroking and rubbing your baby’s feet, legs, tummy and arms, often in circular, rhythmic motions. Be careful not to apply too much pressure and keep away from the soft fontanelle on the top of their head.
Making eye contact with your child as you do so, you may wish to gently hum or sing as you massage. Look out for responses from your baby. If they are enjoying it, they should become calm and quiet, slowing down their movements and visibly relaxing.