Sleep Benefits of Baby Massage

As we have discussed in previous blogs, there are countless benefits to baby massage. But did you know baby massage can also support and aid a positive sleeping pattern for your baby?

Because of the holistic approach that baby massage adopts and the overall benefits to a baby’s health and wellbeing, many parents report that once a massage routine has been established, there are noticeable improvements in their baby’s sleep pattern too.

Baby massage improves positive interactions between baby and caregiver, thus having a positive impact on both baby and carer’s wellbeing which instantly relaxes both parties and developing an even stronger bond.

Similarly, as we have discussed in previous blogs, baby massage can support babies in coping with and reducing the symptoms of many common childhood ailments such as colic, reflux and constipation and as these symptoms subside, and the baby becomes familiar with the massage routine and strokes, the quality of their sleep should improve as a result.

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Incorporating baby massage into your baby’s bedtime routine is a great way to calm and relax your baby and begin to get them into the sleep state needed for a restful and un-disturbed sleep.

As fantastic as it is that baby massages supports a positive sleep pattern in your baby, do remember that if your baby enjoys the massage so much that they fall asleep, stop massaging and allow them to rest.

Massage should be an enjoyable and relaxing experience for both you and your baby and so is worth persevering  with even if your child initially doesn’t take to it, keep trying and eventually the incredible benefits will be evident….. (and hopefully you’ll get some sleep too!)

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Baby Massage; Through the Eyes of a New Mum

I had heard wonderful things about baby massage classes and the incredible benefits it has on both Mum and baby and so as soon as my baby was old enough (and I felt ready to leave the house and join the real world!) I signed up to the next available course.

As someone who doesn’t really ‘do’ baby groups I was a little apprehensive upon arrival, but was instantly calmed and welcomed by the incredibly warm and friendly instructor Vikki; she showed genuine interest in my baby, me and how we both were and encouraged us to get comfortable and choose an area to massage in.

The room is warm (toasty – don’t layer!), dark and calming which instantly puts you at ease. Other parents and their babies begin to arrive and everyone chats amongst themselves; make yourself as comfortable as possible – all of us ended up with our shoes off for the duration of the class – comfort is key!

A warning to anyone new to baby massage, when Vikki tells you it’s okay to leave your baby asleep for the first bit of the session …… listen! There are various bits of admin and paperwork to sort before you start and so if your baby is happy, content and asleep, let them sleep! (I couldn’t fill my form in until the end of the session because I did not heed this advice!)

Once the admin and welcome etc is underway, you are encouraged to introduce yourself you and your baby and the class gets going.

Don’t feel under pressure to fully strip your baby; some just don’t like it – other’s love it!Whatever you and your baby are comfortable with is more than fine! Some babies were naked from the waist down, some were fully naked and others had just a nappy on.

Vikki is honestly a fantastic instructor; calm, positive, friendly, engaging and goes through everything at a really manageable pace………….. if your child co-operates that is!

At the beginning of the session Vikki ensures she puts everyone at ease that the room is ours to use as we please; to feed, change, walk around, settle our babies etc. In addition to this, she is really reassuring that it is perfectly normal for your baby to cry; they won’t be the first and they won’t be the last.

………And mine was the crier for the first week! I didn’t even get any oil on my hands before she began to cry; unusually set off by other’s whimpering or crying, no matter what I did I could not settle her. We walked around the room, we fed, we burped, we rocked and yet she still would not stop.

It doesn’t feel like it at the time (it is the most mortifying feeling initially) but at some point throughout the course, everyone will be in the same boat. Some babies just take a bit longer to warm up and get used to the process; Vikki is totally understanding and sympathetic and assured me that ‘it will be someone else’s baby next week.’ And lo and behold; it was!

So if, like me, you are absolutely horrified at the idea of being ‘that parent’ with ‘that baby’ that cries all the time or won’t allow you to massage during the sessions; it’s okay. It won’t feel it at the time, but it really is.

The sessions are informal, informative but accommodating; Vikki will help you with ideas and solutions to how best to settle and soothe your baby for the sessions – for us, it’s trialling a morning session as sometimes it’s as simple as your baby just isn’t ready to be massaged between 1 and 230pm on a set afternoon; this is normal.

Also, important to mention, don’t feel under pressure to massage in the class in front of everyone, attend the sessions, learn the strokes and skills and practice at home if that is more comfortable for you and your baby. There truly is no pressure to do anything that you aren’t comfortable with at any point in the course. Vikki is incredibly accommodating and understanding and just encourages you to do what’s best for you and your baby and that really helps to put you both at ease. Sometimes it’s nice just to take time out of your day to hold your baby, learn a new skill and chat to other Mum’s (who invariably will be in the same boat as you at some point!)

So, if your first few classes don’t quite go to plan or how you’d expect and your baby doesn’t immediately take to massage; stick it out and adapt the classes, skills and environment to best meet both of your needs.

Baby Massage not only taught me new skills to practice and develop at home with my baby, but it also taught me invaluable lessons about myself as a parent and my (ridiculously high and un-realistic) expectations of my baby. These lessons have really helped both of us relax, adapt and enjoy each other and the classes a lot more!

Reflux

In this week’s blog we will explore a common, but sometimes distressing ailment many parents experience with their babies; reflux.

Reflux is the process of the contents of the stomach flowing back up the oesophagus. Whilst all babies will bring up milk during their early weeks/months, reflux is diagnosed when the quantity of this positing is significantly increased.

Reflux can cause a lot of distress for both parents and baby and reflux is another ailment that baby massage can help to alleviate.

You can expect a baby’s reflux issue to resolve naturally as they begin to spend more time upright and after the introduction of solid foods.

However, baby massage can reduce the effects of reflux significantly, during the course we will focus on all areas of the body. You may be surprised to learn that it is not just the stomach area that we focus on to alleviate reflux in our babies; all other areas are beneficial massage areas for the baby, as well as enabling both parents and baby to relax during the whole massage process.

The position when you are massaging a baby with reflux is incredibly important; placing baby in an elevated position on a firm surface is best.

Any tension a baby experiences is reflected in the feet and so massaging these areas can help relax the whole body which is so beneficial for your baby.

As with any area of massage, time should be taken on each area before moving on in order for baby to benefit the most.

Naturally, for babies with reflux, the tummy is a key area to massage in order to provide some relief from the symptoms of reflux. Massaging the baby’s tummy before a feed can facilitate the movement of the contents of the gut, so it is a good idea to factor in tummy massage before feeds on a daily basis in order to support the stomach in releasing it’s contents faster.

The timing of tummy massage on a refluxy baby is difficult as babies are so individual and reflux can affect them in different ways, and so trial and error may be the only way to work out what works best for your baby, but generally you should wait at least 45 minutes after a feed to massage your baby – although some babies will need significantly longer.

As well as the obvious physical side effects, reflux can trigger emotional trauma through the pain it creates; massaging the chest can relieve this emotional trauma.

Reflux can also cause tension throughout the whole body and so focusing on the legs and feet, as well as the arms and hands may also be beneficial in reducing the overall tension that reflux can create throughout the body.

Babies who suffer with reflux may also find tummy time particularly difficult so incorporating a back massage into your baby’s routine to allow them the time on their tummies to strengthen the abdominal muscles and introduce short bursts of tummy time – where baby will allow of course!

For babies with reflux, some of the traditional strokes you may learn within a baby massage class may need to be adapted to suit the individual baby’s needs and to ensure that you aren’t aggravating the reflux and causing your baby more discomfort.

In summary, whist suffering with reflux in the first months of life is a testing time for both parents and baby, there are natural, easy ways to relieve some of the symptoms and discomfort, most of which can be learned at a baby massage course and then adapted and transferred to your daily routine at home.

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Evaluating and Responding

As with any business, regardless of how big or small, it is important to continually reflect upon, evaluate on and develop your business and the service you are offering as you go along.

My Baby Massage classes are no different, and in order to continually provide the service, information and skills you require for you and your baby, I regularly ask for feedback, evaluations in order to continually develop and provide a service that parents of young babies need.

If you haven’t yet attended one of my courses, I’m going to explain in this blog how I collect data, feedback and evaluations, from the most important people – you, the service user. And how this allows me to make every course I run, as beneficial as it can be for you and your baby – which is my over-riding aim, alongside teaching you vital massage skills to enable you to develop a strong bond with your child, whilst also providing a safe place for parents to come together, learn a new skill, develop friendships, whilst also spending quality time with their babies.

So, data is collected from parents at the beginning of each course; in the form of ‘Parent Learning Points’ at the beginning of the course – these are your expectations are for yourself and your baby for the duration course, which enables me to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of you as parents and carers and what you feel you may need more help and guidance with.

Data is then reviewed at the end of each five-week course period and collated in sample groups, for both private and referral courses, using graphs and charts to clearly outline parental responses, feedback and opinions on how the course benefitted both you and your baby.

Through collecting and collating this data, this not only enables me to amend the course where necessary as a result of feedback gained to meet the needs of you, the target audience, but also highlights how parents are being signposted to the courses and allows me to identify and evaluate my advertising and marketing methods and techniques.

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Through collecting and collating the data in this way, I am able to summarise through evidence and parental feedback that my Baby Massage classes fulfils many needs of the primary carer and baby and holds countless benefits for both parties including;

  • Aiding the bonding and emotional intelligence of the parental bond
  • Each area we focus on aids and supports healthy growth and development in this particular area as well as supporting babies learning and development.
  • 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 as a result begin to work with and process the ailment they have been struggling with.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Baby massage enables parents to feel closer to their baby whilst also gaining a deeper understanding of the baby, their needs, cries and body language. Not only will parents benefit greatly from the calming one-to-one time with their 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 their baby.

Take a look at some of the feedback I’ve had so far this term;

“Venue was fab and easy to get to. Trainer brilliant, very relaxed, patient and informative. We have loved coming to baby massage, thank you!”

“I really enjoyed the balance of massage for baby and time for us to talk and gain information. Your understanding, reassurance, ability to listen and give advice is so welcome when times have been tough – thank you!”

“Sweets and water were a lovely touch! Grateful for the extra support, didn’t realise about the additional benefits for Mum – socially and mentally. Thank you.

“We really enjoyed the course and it was lovely to have a class where I could learn a skill. It was nice to have the opportunity to chat to other mum’s too.” 

“Absolutely loved the whole term. Great price and great people. Love the smell of the oil too – bonus!”

“It has been fantastic! Really beneficial for me and my baby! Highly recommend!”

“We really enjoyed the sessions, lovely to have the group chats and refreshments too.”

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Teething

Teething is something that all of our babies will go through at some point, and that one point in every parent’s life where we worry how they (and we!) will cope.

All babies cope with teething in different ways, but there are some common characteristics, pain responses and behaviours that all babies will display to some degree.

Did you know that baby massage can aid and support the many different responses to teething?

There are many strokes and movements that we will learn throughout the course that can be used as a pain reliever for your baby when they are struggling with teething pain, as well as the overall massage process relaxing them which in turn can act as a natural pain reliever.

However, during the course we focus on the face and mouth in particular and these strokes are designed specifically to support babies through teething episodes.

Massaging around your baby’s jaw line, using small circular movements with your fingertips applying gentle pressure will not only support and soothe the muscles used for sucking but are also proven to relieve some of the discomfort of teething.

 

Similarly, the sucking muscles around the mouth get tired, and by massaging this area not only supports and aids teething, but also provides a different and valuable experience for babies as it can promote smiles too!

Massaging the face of our babies can also promote eye contact and communication as well as supporting teething and grinding pain.

Let’s not forget that cuddling and relaxing with your baby also helps keep cortisol, the stress hormone down which will support and calm your baby when they are feeling the horrible effects of teething!

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Baby Massage Class; What Can I Expect?

Attending any class or group as a new parent is a daunting and nerve-wracking experience for some, particularly when you don’t know what to expect.

Here, I’ll set the scene for what you can expect from your first (and following) baby massage classes.

And remember……. Everyone is in the same boat!

Baby Massage classes are all about you and your baby and the instructor should do all they can to make each and every parent and baby feel as comfortable and at ease as possible.

  • You’ll arrive at the venue and be signposted/directed to the relevant room where your class will be held.
  • The instructor will be waiting for you and the room will be set up, ready for your arrival and the start of the class.
  • The temperature in the room should be warm, at all times of year, to enable you to undress your baby for the massage.

 

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The class should be designed and delivered in a relaxed and friendly manner, allowing you and your baby to feel completely comfortable and relaxed. Please don’t worry if your baby cries, needs a nappy change/feed or even falls asleep! This is totally normal! And remember, the instructor has seen all of this before! Just do what you need to do to settle/tend to your baby, even if this means leaving the room – there is no pressure or expectations.

  • Depending on when you arrive, you should have some time before the class to chat with the instructor and other parents – this is a great time to introduce yourself (although there will be time for this at the beginning of the class!) and get accustomed to new surroundings.
  • Once everyone has arrived (Again, please don’t worry if you are running late or arrive once the class has started! This is not school! Just come in and get yourself comfortable!) the instructor will introduce themselves, the class and the strokes you will be working on in the session.
  • All strokes are provided in your information pack and so you can either follow from this or watch the instructor perform them on her doll. If your child is asleep, dolls are available for you to practice on.
  • We will work through the massages slowly, ensuring your babies are comfortable and happy and allowing you some quiet, comfortable bonding time with your baby through the massages – after all, this is what these classes are all about!
  • As we work on the massages and work through techniques, feel free to chat to each other or ask questions, we want you to get the most out of these classes as you possibly can!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for support throughout the session – the instructor is here to support you!
  • The class generally comes to a natural end as we complete the strokes for that session, but there is no rush to leave! Feel free to stay and chat, to each other, as a group, to the instructor or ask to speak to the instructor privately if you wish.

 

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These are your classes and you should be able to use them and gain advice, confidence and support as you wish throughout your course.

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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.