Why is Baby Massage so important for both parents and babies? Massage is one of life’s greatest pleasures. If you ever have a really good massage, you should experience a deep sense of calm, relaxation and wellbeing, not to mention you will sleep extremely well afterwards. Baby massage is no different for babies.
Baby Massage is a relatively new phenomenon in Western cultures. When I had my first child 19 years ago there were no classes, however when I had my youngest child 9 years ago, I was lucky that they had started in the UK and as a result I had an entirely different experience with her. She slept better, she was less colicky and we bonded beautifully through both touch and communication during massage.
Historically, research has demonstrated that babies need ‘touch’ just as much as they need feeding and all their other basic needs met. In fact, in orphanages 100 years ago it is believed infants were dying from over sterile conditions and a lack of touch. As soon as the babies started to be touched and handled more, this condition disappeared.
Baby massage actually starts in the womb as a foetus. The gentle caress of the womb becomes stronger, gradually becoming the contractions that rhythmically squeeze and push, providing massive stimulation to the infant’s skin and nervous system. Infants are accustomed to the tactile stimulation of constant movement and need the reestablishment of those rhythms after birth. In fact, a fantastic way to introduce your baby to the outside world is by giving your bump a regular, gentle massage while pregnant or by going for a relaxing pre-natal massage with a qualified therapist. Babies will often respond to your touch by kicking the place you just massaged or by changing positions.
‘Human Touch’ has been proven scientifically to have amazing benefits and this starts from babies. The benefits are basically the same as they are for adults: Interaction; everyone needs to be touched, it’s a basic human need. However, for a baby, it’s even more important as this is their opportunity to communicate with you non-verbally (through facial expressions and moving their bodies) and verbally too (by making noises, whether it’s a cry or a squeal of delight). This is a baby’s way of letting you know what they like or dislike by giving you cues that you will learn to identify. Stimulation; all your major internal systems are stimulated during massage: circulatory, respiratory, digestive, hormonal, immune, lymphatic, nervous and vestibular. Relief; Often as adults we have a massage for the relief of muscular tension. Babies also suffer from muscle tension due to the reduced ability to stretch until they are mobile. Equally, they suffer unpleasant symptoms such as wind and colic, constipation, excess mucus and nasal congestion, teething and growing pains. Relaxation; improved sleep patterns. As an adult on average we need 7-8 hours’ sleep. A new-born needs approximately 18 hours and a baby 1 – 12months needs 14 -18 hours sleep.
Baby massage is recommended for premature babies to help them grow and thrive; however babies who are born full term can equally be massaged from new-born until they no longer want you to massage them. Classes are often offered from 6 weeks onwards due to mums needing a bit of rest before they go out and about to classes; however there is no reason not to start classes earlier if you feel ready. Except, as a golden rule, a good instructor will tell you that you shouldn’t massage a crying baby or a sleeping baby. Well, would you like to be massaged if you are upset or poked and prodded if you are asleep?
Baby massage is not only great for babies; it’s great for mums and dads too. It’s a perfect opportunity to learn more about your babies needs via their cues, which is something you will learn to recognise during massage. It is also the most wonderful bonding time you can both have with your baby and improved sleep patterns for babes can only be a good thing for a tired mum and dad too.
Dads can often feel left out, particularly as they have less paternity leave and on average spend less time with their babies. Equally, they cannot experience the wonderful bonding mums can through breastfeeding. Therefore, baby massage is something they can learn to do to get more involved and bond with their babies.
Training as a baby massage instructor has been one of the most fulfilling career moves that I have made. Not only do I get to meet lots of mums, dads and babies and teach them this wonderful skill, I also get to see the babies in my classes develop both physically and emotionally, watching their personalities emerge over a 4 week course.
”It is though our hands that we speak to the child. That we communicate. Touch is the child’s first language, understanding comes long after feeling” Frederick Leboyer, Author.
Eva Levinson, Royal College of Midwives accredited instructor from And Chillax for Babies