Have you ever wondered about the why and how of baby massage? We chat with Licensed Massage Therapist and mom-of-two Jennifer Mermoud to learn everything we need to know about baby massage, along with some easy techniques for busy mommas!
KKG: Jennifer, first off- what are the benefits of infant massage?
Jennifer: Massage helps create a bond with your baby. It allows them to feel the love and affection that you have for them through your touch. When you’re massaging baby, you are stimulating their central nervous system. This triggers the brain to produce more serotonin and less cortisol, which helps baby to become less stressed and more relaxed.
It can also aid in relief from constipation and colic, help reduce crying and fussiness, increase physical and emotional well-being, and help baby relax and sleep more peacefully.
KKG: What do moms need to get started?
Jennifer: Find a room that is quiet, safe, warm and comfortable for both you and baby. Make sure you are relaxed prior to the massage. Babies can sense our energy through our touch, so if you’re anxious or stressed, your baby will pick up on this. It’s also important that baby is calm before starting a massage. If they’re crying or fussy, a massage can be overstimulating and cause them to get more fussy.
Babies have sensitive skin, so make sure you’re using a natural product to reduce the chance of allergic reactions of skin irritations. [KKG note: Our Lullaby Melting Balm Cleanser is perfect for this!]
When you’re giving your baby a massage, it’s your opportunity to connect with them. Talk, sing, make eye contact, smile. They are able to internalize this and will remember these moments and how happy and loved they felt.
Since babies love routines, making massage a part of your day can be even more beneficial for both you and baby. It provides an extra special way to connect with your baby daily, in just a short amount of time. If you massage baby before bedtime, they will be more relaxed and fall asleep quicker.
KKG: How long should a baby massage be?
Jennifer: This depends on how old the baby is. From a newborn to when they’re crawling or walking, plan on 10-15 minutes. Once your baby becomes more active, it will be more challenging to get them to stay still, therefore a 5-10 minutes massage would be beneficial.
KKG: What are some simple techniques moms can use to get started?
Jennifer: Check your local area for classes on infant massage, or ask your massage therapist for a demonstration. There are also many books, DVDs and YouTube videos you can reference. I recommend reading books or watching videos before starting, so you can get familiar with the technique. If you try to do it while massaging your baby, you’ll end up distracted and miss the connection with your baby.
Some resources I recommend are:
- Infant Massage–Revised Edition: A Handbook for Loving Parents by Vimala McClure (book)
- Baby Massage: The Calming Power of Touch by Alan Heath and Nicki Bainbridge (book)
- Massage Practice for Infants by Wellness Solutions from GAIAM (DVD)
- Infant Massage: The Power of Touch (DVD)
Also, trust your natural instincts! Follow your baby’s cues as to what they like and what they don’t like.
KKG: Can you provide suggestions for more specific problems that mommas face with their babies?
Jennifer: Yes! Understanding reflexology is incredibly useful. Reflexology is based on the idea that there are points in our feet that are connected to every other area of our body. The best thing about reflexology is that it is able to be performed anywhere, at any time.
Before starting reflexology, make a connection with your baby by placing your thumb on the solar plexus (below the third toe at the ball of the foot) and holding for a few seconds. You do this to open and close the reflexology session.
For teething, a gentle reflexology massage of both feet will help soothe baby. Be sure to massage the toes as well, because they coordinate with baby’s head and teeth. Hold each toe individually, give it a slight squeeze, and then finish with a circular motion going upwards.
For colic and constipation, I recommend a 3-5 minute reflexology sequence. Starting at the base of your baby’s foot, walk your thumb up the foot and work your way up to the toes. If you do not feel comfortable walking your thumb up, apply gentle pressure and rub. Then, go to the middle of the foot and work your way from the outside of the foot to the inside, with the same gentle pressure. Repeat this 2-3 times, then on the other foot. You are touching your baby’s feet, but working on their large intestine.
There are also techniques that don’t involve reflexology. For diarrhea, digestion issues, constipation and gas, you can place one hand on top of your baby’s stomach with your palm on their navel. Rest there for a couple of seconds, then begin to rub baby’s stomach over their navel in a slow, clockwise, circular motion. Repeat this 10 times. Next, alternate your hands as you rub down baby’s abdomen. Repeat this 10 times.
KKG: This has been so helpful, Jennifer! One last question: what techniques can mommas use to help relax their baby at bedtime?
Jennifer: To aid in relaxation, the general technique should include soft, repeated strokes in a circular motion. Start at the baby’s head and work your way down. You can also turn the baby over onto their tummy and massage their back as well, using this same technique.
There you have it, mommas! A short, simple introduction to baby massage that you can start using now to help relieve your baby from discomfort and help her drift off to sleep with ease.
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