Strengthen your bond with baby through massage
Inspiring tips for mindful baby massage
Babies explore the world through touch. Through their sense of touch, they get to know themselves and the world around them. A gentle massage helps them to become familiar with their own body. This mindful skin-to-skin contact also conveys love, trust and security.
Massage strengthens parent-child bonding
Gentle massage strengthens parent-child bonding and can be relaxing for both baby and parents. Weleda midwife Carolina offers inspiring advice on baby massage. It’s important to remember that every baby is unique, and we should consider their likes and dislikes. If a baby doesn’t like the massage on one part of the body, skip it and instead focus on the parts of the body where baby enjoys it. In doing so, parents get to know their children even better and signal that their children’s needs are respected.
Benefits of baby massage
Babies perceive touch, temperature and different materials intensively through their skin. It connects the interior world of the young child with the outside world. Massage embraces and protects them while reinforcing their sense of physical self-awareness. Gentle touch stimulates their breathing and heart function, and helps to relieve trapped gas and wind which may relief colic. Massage as a ritual can enhance daily and evening routines and help children to settle down for a more restful sleep.
Perceiving your baby’s signals and reacting accordingly fosters communication and sensitivity. This has a positive influence on the developing parent-child bond. When experiencing positive emotions, for instance through skin-to-skin contact, massages or breastfeeding, the body releases oxytocin. This so-called bonding hormone creates a sense of emotional attachment between parents and child.
Massage is a wonderful way to instil warmth, trust and a sense of security in your baby and to intensify loving skin-to-skin contact.
The right time for a massage
Parents shouldn’t be afraid to do the wrong thing while massaging their baby. There’s no need to follow precise instructions. What is important isn’t the exact duration or sequence of movements, but that the baby and the person giving the massage both feel comfortable. Gentle massage movements can easily be integrated into your baby’s daily care regimen, for instance when changing nappies. It’s best to warm the oil in the palm of your hands before each massage movement. Warm, intentional touches strengthen bonding and have positive effects on the baby.
Ritualised massage can help babies adjust to this process and anticipate what will happen – this gives them sense of safety and security. A massage using inward strokes (moving toward the middle of the body), is more stimulating and can be well integrated into the morning care routine. A massage with outward strokes has a more relaxing effect, and can be used as a gradual close to the day. The ideal time for a massage should be determined by the baby’s signals: if the baby already seems tired, it’s not a good idea to launch into a stimulating massage.
10 helpful tips for baby massage
With these tips from Weleda midwives, parents can give their children a sense of security and easily integrate the baby massage into their daily routine:
- Babies can be massaged from birth onwards.
- During the first year of life, babies should only be fully undressed if in a very warm environment (around 24 degrees Celsius). Otherwise, only expose the particular area that is being massaged. Areas of the body that have already been massaged can be covered with a cloth nappy.
- Avoid massages immediately after meals if your baby tends to spit up.
- In the first days after birth, gentle stroking movements are suitable; after a few days you can develop this into a proper massage.
- To impart a sense of security, rest one hand on your baby while the other hand performs the massage movements.
- Children often find it pleasant if slow, rhythmic movements are performed.
- Babies don’t need mobiles or other play things that distract them during the massage. It’s best to massage your baby in a calm, quiet room with soft lighting.
- Towels placed under baby’s head and knees support the natural contours of the body; fostering comfort and a sense of security. A rolled towel can be placed around the child in a semicircle to form a protective barrier or nest.
- Some children like a quiet massage, others enjoy rhythmic accompaniment through songs or humming.
- The massage should last as long as you and your child feel comfortable.
Massage techniques for mindful baby massage
Massage of the arms and legs
To massage baby’s legs, start at the hip and stroke down the leg to the foot. Circular movements along each leg down to the feet can also be very pleasant for children. Many people (young and old) find a foot massage to be very relaxing. Move your thumb from the heel up over the sole and then out along each of the toes. The hand and arm massage is similar to the leg massage. Start at the shoulder and stroke the arm from top to bottom. Baby might also find it pleasant to be massaged using a clockwise circular movement along the arm. You can also gently move your thumb in circles in the centre of baby’s tiny palm. It’s also nice to extend the massage down and out over the hand and fingers.
Tummy and chest massage
A good time to give your baby a relaxing tummy massage is while changing nappies. Use one hand to massage your baby’s tummy, making small circular movements. Intensify the contact by gently placing your other hand on one side of your baby’s abdomen – this gives your baby a physical boundary and an added sense of security. It’s easy to extend this massage to the chest area. The massage can foster intimate moments of togetherness. Tip for trapped gas and wind: Massage the area around the navel using gentle circular motions in a clockwise direction. End by moving these motions down over the left thigh. This is because the last section of the intestine runs from the right over the upper abdomen and ends at the bottom left. This movement “massages” the trapped gas and wind in the direction of the rectum and supports digestion.
Babies need rhythm and rituals
The mother’s organs, especially the heartbeat, provide warmth and rhythm through their sounds and create the unborn child’s acoustic environment. After birth, this sense of rhythm can be continued in the daily routine. Establishing certain baby care rituals can help your child anticipate and adjust to daily activities. Baby massage is one such ritual that can support this sense of rhythm.
The best oil for baby massage
A natural plant oil such as Calendula Baby Oil (Fragrance Free) is ideal for baby massage. With its extract of calendula blossoms, it gently cares for and protects sensitive skin. Because a newborn’s skin is not yet fully developed, it takes a while for the skin’s acid mantle and the sebaceous and sweat glands to adjust to their function outside of the womb. Unlike synthetic oils, pure plant oils have a similar structure to human skin. This enables the skin to gradually develop its function as a protective layer. Children with particularly sensitive skin prone to irritation or eczema can also be massaged with a gentle lotion, such as White Mallow Body Lotion.
ESSENTIAL PRODUCTS FOR A SOOTHING BABY MASSAGE