Our very first massage comes with the contractions of our mother’s womb which not only push us through the birth canal out into this world but also stimulate all our major organs for survival once we’re in it. This is nature’s way of helping the baby survive until once in their mother’s arms their breathing rate, body temperature and heart beat can all regulate around the rhythms of their mother.
As a continuation of this, baby massage has been practiced by other cultures for generations with many techniques being handed down from mothers to daughters. It’s now recognised in Western culture that massaging a baby can have some very positive effects and being able to continue what nature has already started and massaging your baby is one of the finest skills a parent can acquire.
Far from the days when mothers were told not to pick up their babies because they would ‘spoil them’, it’s now common knowledge that holding and stroking your baby is one of the finest things a mother can do. Touch is the ‘mother of all our senses ‘ and as the first of the senses to develop it’s known to be the baby’s first ‘language’. The way in which a baby is held and touched will tell them much about how loved and wanted they are.
Compared with all other mammals who are on their feet within weeks, most within days, human babies take far longer to gain anything like this kind of independence. As such, human babies are born prematurely and need to go from their mother’s womb into their mothers arms where for at least the first six to eight weeks they need their mothers to hold, touch, rub, rock, talk to and reassure them until they have began to gather their senses in a new and an unfamiliar world.
For a little ‘heart to heart’ time, spending some quiet periods together holding and stroking can help a mother and baby get to know each other through their sense of touch in a very special way. The baby has far more sensory receptors over the surface of their skin than any adult and as such is very responsive to touch and for a mother to literally ‘get in touch’ by holding and stroking and slowly take her baby into ‘the palms of her hands’ can make a world of difference to their relationship.
Stroking your baby’s back from the neck downwards should help to calm and soothe and if you gently knead your baby’s tummy from side to side (when they are relaxed) this can help your baby’s digestion and improve their disposition. All of this is to be done with your baby clothed.
If you wish to introduce a light massage using oil make sure you will be undisturbed for at least thirty minutes. Also make sure the room is warm and you lay your baby on a soft warm surface like a double bath towel. Use a pure vegetable oil like Sunflower or Grapeseed both of which are available in your local supermarkets.
Always skin test first, so before undressing your baby rub a small amount of the oil into your baby’s arm and shoulder and leave for twenty minutes to make sure there is no adverse reaction.
With clean warm hands (no jewellery) just use the oil like you would soap. Oils were used for generations to cleanse the body soaps are relatively new and tend to dry the skin. Cleansing your baby with oil will leave their skin soft and shining. You can always wipe off any residue oil with the towel, so be generous, use lots and let your hands glide easily and avoid putting oil on your baby’s face.
Stroking your baby with warm well oiled hands is a lovely introduction to baby massage and once you and your baby get the feel of this you can introduce ‘Developmental Baby Massage’ which will give you and your baby all the delights and benefits of massage while ensuring that your baby achieves their full potential through each of the early stages of their development.
Attached is a downloadable PDF of a Tiger in the Tree massage – brilliant for relieving your baba from birth trauma, colic, wind, constipation, factiousness, anxiety and other aliments associated with acute abdominal tension.
From Developmental Baby Massage by UK leading expert Peter Walker (Available Amazon / Mothercare)
For more information about Peter Walker and Developmental Baby Massage visit www.babymassageteachertraining.com.