Expert / 4 April, 2023 / Peter Walker
Touch is your baby’s first language, and the way that you hold and touch your baby tells your baby all that he or she needs to know about how loved and wanted they are. Touch and oxygen, even before mother’s milk, are our very first foods of life. Every bit as important and necessary as any vitamins and minerals your touch is vital to the healthy survival of your baby.
What the baby receives through a tender, loving touch can make a sick baby well. Science has now proven what all loving, compassionate mothers have always known in their heart of hearts that holding and stroking their babies is essential to the baby’s emotional, physical and physiological development.
The early introduction of a baby massage routine that serves to deepen attachment and soothe and assist the digestive and respiratory functions of a new baby could prove to be extremely useful to the child’s health and the mother and child relationship. An appropriate baby massage routine can also prove to be useful in the recognition and alleviation of some early developmental delays and minor infant ailments.
With a loving touch, your baby will thrive and for those mothers and babies, especially those who have had a difficult start, the early introduction of baby massage can do much to alleviate the anxieties imposed through difficult confinement or a difficult birth experience.
Throughout our lives, we all need to be held and touched, but nowhere is this of more value than from those first moments of life onwards.
1. Choose the right baby massage program, the one that will give you and your child the most benefits.
2. Relax and have fun – this is therapeutic play.
3. Always stop if your baby cries. Recognise that, for whatever reason, they do not wish to engage in this at this particular time. If you acknowledge this, your baby will return easily to massage at another time.
4. Engage with your baby as much as you can. Look into your baby’s eyes and talk to him or her and include lots of kisses.
5. Practice between feeds when your baby is neither too hungry nor too full.
6. Lay your baby on a nice soft warm bath towel, and make sure the room is warm with no draughts.
7. Try to always keep one hand on your baby even when you need to lift the other (to replenish your oil etc.), and use lots of oil so that your hands glide easily.
8. Ensure your hands are clean and warm and you have no jewellery on that can scratch your baby’s skin. Keep your oil to hand in a saucer, dishes are too easily spilled.
9. Breathe out and calm down before you start, and give your hands, arms and shoulders a shake to relax them.
10. Make sure you and your baby will remain undisturbed for at least 45 minutes.
Assisting in the relief of ‘physiological flexion,’ the tension imposed throughout the front of the body (fetal position) by the baby’s inability to stretch during the last months of confinement, will help the baby to relax their tummy and assist in the relief of wind and colic.
It will also enable the baby to breathe deeper (some 65,000 times every twenty-four hours) and improve their temperament. This is a significant daily increase in oxygen. This will boost the baby’s immune system and aid in their growth and development.
Other advantages of specialised baby massage are improved circulation, joint mobility, muscular tonus and in the development of up-right posture and mobility, ensuring a well-balanced body with a wider range of movement.
On a most profound level, even people in deep comas have been found to have improved heart rates when their hands are held, whereas on a more superficial note, waitresses who touch their customers on the shoulder when returning their change receive a larger tip than those who don’t.
Try this: Place your hands in a ‘prayer position’ and bring them as close as you can to each other without touching. Even if your hands are cold, you will still feel the warmth of the energy being transmitted from one hand to the other. This is the healing power of touch, which when applied with love and compassion, can offer so much to the health of babies and children.
Article by Peter Walker, Developmental Baby Massage Therapist
Peter Walker is a developmental baby massage teacher’s teacher and works one to one with mothers who have babies with developmental delay, prada-willi and cerebral palsy.
Peter initiated baby massage into post-natal yoga sessions, which he first gave some forty years ago, resulting in ‘Developmental Baby Massage,’ a sequence designed to help the young baby fulfill their need for touch while fulfilling their potential at each stage of their early development.