Baby Massage: Background

As well as being a fun and relaxing skill to acquire, baby massage can help enormously with a range of physical and emotional issues that may be experienced by young babies and/or their parents/carers.

From developing the parent-child bond in those who have had a difficult pregnancy, a traumatic birth or are suffering from post-natal depresssion, to helping ease common newborn conditions such as colic and constipation,
I have experienced massage changing an unsettled baby to a happy content one, with the added benefit of a much needed confidence boost for their parents.

Baby massage involves using a variety of strokes and gentle holds on your baby, using a high quality non-fragranced vegetable oil. These soothing holds and rhythmic strokes are given on each area of baby’s body by a parent or primary carer, following a sequence that has been developed over many years. My course, as accredited by the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), draws from both Indian and Swedish massage traditions and also incorporates principles from yoga and reflexology.

 

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Massage offers a wonderful experience and a special time to communicate both verbally and non-verbally with babies, so that they feel loved, valued and respected. It can help with physical issues including constipation and colic, improve the parent’s confidence and enhance the parent and child bond.

Long before babies are able to speak, they communicate with the world around them through touch and we naturally communicate the same way with them. If a baby cries, for example, we often cuddle them or stroke their back. Massaging your baby is an extension of the instinctive natural impulse to use touch to soothe, heal & communicate and has a wealth of benefits for both parent and child.

 

 

 

 

The Ancient Art of Baby Massage

 

In previous blogs we’ve looked at the impact, effects and benefits of baby massage but where did Baby Massage originate from? How did it start and how did it develop? In this blog we will take a deeper look into this and explore the ancient art of baby massage and how it has developed over the years.

In some cultures, there is evidence to suggest that the practice of baby massage is over 300 years old and has been passed down through the generations. In many parts of the world baby massage is a daily part of the care routine until the baby has learned to walk.

Vimala Mclure was the founder of the International Association of Infant Massage, it was during her work in a small orphanage in India that she became aware of the importance of traditional indian massage for it’s soothing effects.

Traditionally, an Indian mother regularly massages everyone in the family and this is a skill that is passed onto the daughters of the family.

At the orphanage, babies were massaged almost every day, Vimala had not seen this type of nurturing interaction in the US.

Vimala decided to combine her practical experiences at the orphanage, yoga and reflexology principles into a simple routine  – through this the International Association. of Infant Massage was born.

She designed a special approach for babies with symptoms of colic and developed the ‘Touc Relaxation’ technique.

The same baby massage programme is now taught in over 60 different countries around the world and the basic IAIM principles encompass working together to support parents through creating a nurturing environment for both parent and child, this is why parents and babies are at the forefront of what IAIM represents.

Baby Massage – The Emotional Benefits

In the last post we look at the physical benefits of Baby Massage, this week we will be taking a deeper look into the emotional benefits that baby massage holds for both babies and parents.

The whole baby massage process is an emotional journey for both parent and baby, and a deeply beneficial one for all involved.

Baby massage has the power to support the overall bonding process between parent and baby whilst also promoting the child’s emotional intelligence as we explore receptors and feelings.

Massage offers a wonderful experience and a special time to communicate both verbally and non-verbally with babies, so that they feel loved, valued and respected. Long before babies are able to speak, they communicate with the world around them through touch and we naturally communicate the same way with them. If a baby cries, for example, we often cuddle them or stroke their back. Massaging your baby is an extension of the instinctive natural impulse to use touch to soothe, heal & communicate and enables your baby to develop an understanding that their needs will be met.

Similarly, baby massage supports and develops secure attachments between the baby and primary caregiver as well as reducing crying and emotional distress due to the hormones that are released when the baby becomes relaxed during their massage. These strokes and techniques increase the babies levels of relaxation which contributes the aiding longer and more natural sleep patterns.

The emotional benefits of baby massage are not just limited to your baby, there are also significant emotional benefits for you as a parent too. Baby massage enables you to feel closer to your baby whilst also gaining a deeper understanding of your baby, their needs, cries and body language. Not only will you benefit greatly from the calming one-to-one time with your baby but many parents of baby massage classes say they felt empowered and the courses increased their confidence in their ability to care for and nurture your baby.

 

 

Baby Massage – The Physical Benefits

As discussed in previous posts, baby massage classes not only have incredible mental benefits for both parents and babies as well as aiding the bonding and emotional intelligence of your parental bond, but baby massage and the strokes and massages you will learn over the period of the course, also has incredible physical benefits for your baby and can support in dealing with and overcoming a variety of common ailments and illnesses in young babies.

Each week of the course we focus on massaging different areas of the body, which have corresponding health benefits for your baby. Similar to the effects of reflexology, each area we focus on aids and supports healthy growth and development in this particular area as well as supporting your babies learning and development.

For example, when we focus on massaging the tummy/abdomen area; parents commonly  report a noticeable difference in their babies digestive processes, particularly those who have struggled with constipation and colic in their baby previously. Learning and developing these skills relaxes our babies body, which results in their bodies becoming more responsive to these new strokes and massages which in turn stimulate the body’s natural movements and in turn begin to work with and process the ailment they have been struggling with.

For you as a parent, not only do these new skills provide you with a new means of bonding with your baby, but also enables you to feel more empowered in supporting your baby through these difficult times where you otherwise may struggle to ease their pain – so many parents have reported that as their child’s symptoms began to subside, so did their anxiety surrounding their babies illness/ailments.

One of the biggest physical benefits that so many parents report as a result of the classes and continuing to use and develop the massages at home is the improvement in baby’s sleeping routines. As we mentioned above, the massages and strokes allow the baby to relax not only their body but their minds too, which naturally aids sleep as well as the emotional responses this bonding stimulates in the babies brain which also contributes to the overall responsiveness to sleep and ‘down time’ which is supported by the massage.

Massaging each area of the baby’s body holds physical benefits for them. Let’s take a closer look at each area; Massaging around the jawline, ears and along to the chin can help relax this area which can be prone to grinding and clamping shut leading to headaches and jaw ache as well as easing teething pains.

By massaging the hands, this helps with the development of movement of the wrist, hand, fingers, and the child’s overall dexterity. There are Pressure points near the wrist, that when massaged can help with and relieve anxiety.  Hand massages also support flexibility of the fingers, in addition to the cognitive benefits of building brain trails for developing finger movements.
Massaging the face relaxes the eyes and supports the corrugater muscles (small muscles close to the eyes) relax on the forehead. Similarly, massaging around the lips, promotes smile movements and expressions and in turn helps with brain training and helping babies locate where they smile and the physical and cognitive feelings associated with these expressions.
Baby massage classes are only the beginning in terms of developing the agility of many muscles and joints and it is ideal to keep exercising gentle movements with your baby after your classes end to ensure the fluidity of their muscles and joints grow with them. Activities like baby yoga, helps with movements for crawling and walking, in addition to stretching the muscles of the back, rotation of the shoulders, hips, arms, hands which overall contribute to long-term physical fluidity in a child’s gross and fine motor movements and skills.

Baby Massage – A Mother’s Perspective

We’ve discussed before the benefits baby massage classes can offer to your baby – but what first attracts parents to the classes? Are you reading this blog and wondering if baby massage would suit you and your baby? Well, today we are going to look at the classes from a mother’s perspective as we talk to Sarah, who has attended the classes numerous times. Here’s what she had to say about the experience and class as a whole:

“I had previously lost twin babies shortly after their birth and as a result I was an extremely anxious new parent. I wanted to do something relaxing with my new baby.  And these classes enabled me to have some time with my baby where I could feel totally relaxed. In addition to this, by baby was more relaxed too and she was very settled during the sessions. She clearly enjoyed the sessions and she was very smiley and vocal during them. My baby suffered terribly with constipation and the massages really helped with this.”

“These classes enabled me to have some time with my baby where I could feel totally relaxed. I also found that I enjoyed the sessions a lot and they enabled me to take time out of my busy life to ensure that I was just enjoying being with my baby. I also found that they enabled me to feel empowered and like I was doing something proactive to help my baby’s physical uncomfortableness with her constipation.”

“I had a really nice first impression of the classes, Vikki is really warm and welcoming. I think she made many of the women feel very cared for listened to. Physically the rooms were warm, clean and inviting. The sweets were a welcomed treat! I have recommended the courses several times to my friends. I don’t believe there are any drawbacks to the courses but it might be a nice idea to have some on-going drop in sessions to practice the massage techniques after the courses have ended.”

“Overall, I have now attended several of Vikki’s courses with my daughter and I have just started a new course with my newborn son. I have really enjoyed all of the courses and think they have have really assisted my bonding with my babies. The way Vikki facilitated the sessions also really encourages friendship between the mothers and the group discussions I think really help to ease any feelings of isolation.”

In my opinion, baby massage classes have just as much benefits on you, the parent, as they do on your baby as Sarah’s comments demonstrate first hand. If you do one thing for yourself today, book yourself onto your nearest course and witness for yourself how this simple, yet calming activity can significantly improve the life of both you and your baby.

 

Maternal Mental Health

Whilst having a baby is a wonderful and exciting time, it can also be a daunting and scary time too, resulting in a knock-on effect on the mental health of so many parents. ‘Maternal Mental Health Week’ aims to raise the profile of maternal mental health issues, offer support and ultimately let you know, you are not alone.

Baby Massage classes can support parents in not just supporting their babies development and developing a bond but also whilst benefiting the mental health of parents too.

As well as being a fun and relaxing skill to acquire, baby massage can help enormously with a range of physical and emotional issues that may be experienced by young babies and/or their parents/carers.

From developing the parent-child bond in those who have had a difficult pregnancy, a traumatic birth or are suffering from post-natal depression, to helping ease common newborn conditions such as colic and constipation,
I have experienced massage changing an unsettled baby to a happy content one, with the added benefit of a much needed confidence boost for their parents.

Baby massage can help with so many things that every parent struggles with. I hope to create a calm, relaxed non-judgemental atmosphere within the group to promote relaxation and confidence building. Everyone who books on to the course worries about their baby crying and upsetting the other babies but i always tell them very early on that every baby in the room will cry, wee, poo and be sick, most of the babies attending the course will be struggling with reflux, colic, wind, constipation and much more- that’s why they are there. I explain that the room is theirs to do with whatever they feel comfortable doing.

I have very young teenage parents who are struggling with coping for a newborn and much older parents who have had successful careers struggling with exactly the same things. It’s very powerful to watch these parents bond together, learning at the same time to cope with another life so dependent on them. I have many parents with additional needs that need time and extra explanation of the massage strokes but when they realise that have perfected it and can see their own babies relax and respond to them it is incredibly moving.
Many parents have lost babies or been very poorly themselves or their babies have had to have fought for their lives to be here. I allow these parents time to talk openly and frankly about their experiences and sometimes it is the first time they have allowed themselves to do that. It is incredibly powerful, humbling and heartbreaking to hear their stories but it then allows them time to work through their emotions and feelings to promote healing and strength. I always signpost those to the midwife counselling service at the hospital or liaise with their workers if I feel they need extra help with that.

Baby massage is SO much more than massaging your baby. It is about bonding and forming a golden thread that will run between you both for the rest of your life, it’s about picking up on your babies cues and learning about each other’s needs. It’s about creating an environment that is relaxed and calm, close and about the basic human need  of love and nurturing touch.