When I was in massage school one of the books we had to read was ,” Touching – The human significance of the skin” . One of the things I remember that really stuck with me while reading this book was how babies thrive on so many levels from being held and touched . There was an upsetting documentary I once watched 20 years ago about children in a Romanian orphanage . These children where left alone in a crib all day while some ( 2years and up ) were contained behind bars . There was nobody to love , hold or touch them and after a while some of them stopped growing , developing and a few became like wild animals . Seriously the most heartbreaking thing I ever saw in my life !! There was a team of volunteers that came in after a while ( after much resistance from government ) and through dedication , touching and holding many of these children began to flourish , they started growing , walking , talking and began to come out of their shell . All blossoming simply from kindness, loving touch and heart felt energy.
Touch is something that doesn’t coast a thing but has a deeply profound affect on human development . The last blog post I wrote was about the importance of skin to skin contact after birth – the first few weeks of life ; I wanted to continue by introducing infant massage as another transformative bonding and nurturing tool .
The benefits of infant massage-
Improves over all wellbeing
Aids in digestion
Calms nervous system
Reduces stress hormones
Improves immune system
Deepens the bond between you and your baby
Stimulates healthy growth
Helps baby sleep better
Helps you to tune into your baby’s cues , signals , signs and needs
Relaxes your baby
Helps balance muscle tone
Helps with body awareness
Tips on massaging your baby
I usually suggest doing it following a bath and massaging baby with organic coconut oil But it can be done at anytime and with any non toxic baby oil or lotion .
When you give a massage you are not only healing with your touch but also with you energy . Your energy gets transferred onto your baby so If you are angry or feeling rushed don’t do it . Your baby can feel your energy so if you aren’t calm and are feeling stressed or overwhelmed wait to do when you are feeling more at peace .
Be present and leave your cell phone in the other room . I remember something I herd in my R.I.E teachers training ; my teacher said , “It’s not how much time you spend with your children that matters but how you spend your time with them that does”. When you can be present with this little miracle that you created while giving a massage you will be able to start to read their cues and signals for what relaxes them , makes them feel good and notice what they like or don’t like.( a priceless parenting tool to be able to read your baby’s signals)
Look your baby in their eyes and talk to them as you massage . They know your voice and it’s soothing for them to hear it. It’s been shown that parents who talk to their babies early on or babies that have older siblings around end up talking earlier , more clearly and have a wider vocabulary.
Stop massaging or don’t do if your baby doesn’t like or isn’t into it and then try it again at another time . This way you are respecting how your child is feeling in the moment and not forcing something on them that they don’t want to do.
The first thing I learned in massage school was to just put oil in my hands and feel the body of the person I was working on. when doing this I was able to tune into where they were tight , what the tension felt like ( rope like , knotty , cement … ) , Where their energy was blocked or inflammation was happening ( hot , cold ) and where and how I touched that relaxed them or if at what pressure they would tighten up and not let me in their body. I use massage in my doula work as well , the calmer the mommy is in labor the more relaxed her body will be and able to let go and open . When I prep someone for birth , massage is a tool I use to get to know her signals and cues of what feels good or not. Massage ,the way I do it is intuitive , I feel my way and let my hands go to where they are drawn to instead of doing a series of massage techniques . This is what I suggest to you when massaging your baby. Just put some oil on your hands and start massaging your baby where ever FEELS right to you . once when I was showing a mommy how to massage their baby I was drawn to starting with their baby’s belly by doing small , slow circles starting at the right side of the belly to left . ( she told me her baby had colic , which I didn’t know but intuitively went there ). Another time when doing infant massage I was pulled towards my friends baby’s head and started gently stroking the top of his head , he stopped moving , looked me right in the eyes and then began to fall asleep , she still rubs his head even at 4 years old as a tool to relax him before bed . So start where you are drawn to and begin to notice how your baby responds . Can you feel them relax or do they tense up ? Do they feel happy and content or aggravated ?
The slower you move your hands the calmer their energy will become . Just play , have fun , lovingly touch your baby , talk to them and try and tune into how they are feeling by the way they are reacting to your touch . Babies don’t have a very long attention span so this all can be done in just a few minutes.
A few moves you can try
Using both hands , alternate hands ( or because they are so little a few fingers ) one hand going up while your other hand or few fingers comes down , great for the back , legs and arms .
Place fingers on each side of spine and do small little circles up and down
Rub softly their shoulders
Get fingers in back of neck and massage around gently
Alternate Ringing out the arms and legs with both hands
Massage their little hands and fingers
Small circles around the feet and gentle push your baby’s feet in towards their belly and pull them gently back out ( great for relieving gas)
Small circles starting at the right side of their belly around to left ( helps with digestion )
Softly touch their head and stroke lovingly from forehead back
Touch their face and end it all with a big old kiss !!