Massage is an amazing way to bond and connect with your baby, but more importantly, touch is crucial for their brain development! Touch is the second sense to develop after hearing, and they have receptors for touch all over their skin (just like us!). Stimulation of these touch receptors stimulates their awareness, speeds development, improves circulation, tones muscles, and often reduces irritability. It also teaches them to appreciate the power of touch, and its been said that it makes them more comfortable with their own bodies as they grow into toddlerhood. In addition to holding, squeezing and kissing them, a regular routine of massage can be a great experience for both parents and their babies.
When Is a Good Time to Try It?
Whenever you are comfortable and ready to! Infants of any age benefit. Pick a time when you are not rushed or preoccupied and you can be 100% involved in the process. Its wonderful to combine the massage with an evening bath (after) as they can be very relaxed, but any time of day is the right time.
Expect that your baby might not want to lie there for 15 min the first time you try it, you might need to start with 3 minutes and build up to progressively longer sessions, depending on their temperament. Some infants will readily enjoy a massage, others are more sensitive and may take longer to get used to the stimulation, and others just might not want to hold still! Know your baby and do what you feel is best for them watching their cues.
What Do You Need?
Pillow, blanket, waterproof pad (optional), bath towels, olive oil, or a specially formulated baby massage oil…be careful with scented aromatherapy oils, which are too strong for baby’s skin, too pungent for their sense of smell.
How Do Your Do The Massage?
These are guidelines – remember that what you are trying to achieve is time with your baby and stimulation of their brain, don’t get too caught up in the process or feel their is a very specific system necessary to the massage. Feel free to get creative and develop your own routine too! Have fun with it!
Get everything ready before you start, and go slow with all movements. Talk to your baby and maintain eye contact as much as possible. Watch their body language during the process – do they seem to be enjoying it? Are they squirmy? crying? smiling & laughing?
With all the movements below think of repeating them 3 times to create more of a flow to the routine. Start at the feet and work your way up to their head.
Feet – thumb over thumb movement taking turns to stroke upwards on sole with alternate thumbs, moving in same direction; squeeze each toe gently, massage over ankles
Legs – moving up the leg do the ‘rope twist’ (gently alternating hands so that you are effectively ‘twisting the skin and muscles, increasing the circulation in their legs) Do this all the way up the legs
Buttocks – slide both hands/fingertips under buttocks and gently drum fingers into skin, or use palms to massage the skin (depending on age/size)
Belly – rub in circles, then using both thumbs stroke away from belly button out to sides of body
Chest – rub in circles, trace a heart or the alphabet, sing a song,
Arms – gently cap their shoulders, rub a few times then rope twist movement (similar to legs) moving downward
Hands – palms up gently use thumb to make circles, then pull on each finger
Face – stroke forehead starting at point between eyes and drawing circles out around cheek bones ending at nose; stroke from ears along jaw line; rub ear lobes
Back – starting at top of spine stroke downwards to hips; use fingertips to ‘drum’ skin lightly from top to bottom (like playing a keyboard), stroke outward from midline to sides, make circles down both sides
Whether you use the movements above or develop some of your own, try to stick with some kind of routine to the massage. Most babies like routine and knowing what to expect – some temperaments appreciate this more than others so respect the individuality of your baby and their sensitivity. If they don’t like it, take a break, console them and try again another day for a shorter period of time.