Baby massage benefits and techniques

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  • Baby massage creates a lovely bonding experience for parents and their new arrivals, helping everyone to feel happy and relaxed. It can also lend a helping hand when it comes to soothing common problems such as gas, wind or baby constipation.

    Before we go any further, it’s worth noting that while the name can be confusing, baby massage is far gentler than the kind of massage you’d expect in a spa or salon. It’s all about using featherlight strokes in soft, rhythmic motions with the best baby massage oils.

    What are the benefits of baby massage?

    “Baby massage has many proven benefits,” says Emma Nash, founder of baby care brand Tiddley Pom. “Touch is such an important sense and not only does it stimulate the pathways in the brain, which helps with development, but it reinforces the bond between parent and baby.

    “This is particularly important if the bonding process has been interrupted, for example, a premature baby in an incubator or a mum who is unable to hold her baby.  Skin on skin contact is recommended from birth, which highlights the vital role touch plays in baby development.”

    Baby massage doesn’t just have the potential to be beneficial for the baby, but for parents too – especially in cases of postnatal depression.

    “This is when massage is so important,” Emma explains. “Massage helps form a bond and if this has been difficult, this can be a simple, stress-free and fun way to help improve the situation.”

    And it almost goes without saying that both parents can be a part of this experience, helping them to form strong ties with their little one.

    Baby massage for gas and constipation

    Baby struggling to settle as a result of wind or gas? “A parent can help relieve wind and gas by a gentle massage on the baby’s tum,” explains Emma. “Follow a large circular movement from right to left, starting just below the right side rib cage and moving in a large circular movement downwards to end at the top of the right hip and repeat. This will push the wind through the digestive tract to expulsion.”

    Constipation in babies is a common problem, and can be caused by things like a change in diet or dehydration. The good news that massage can help in some cases.“Like the massage for gas and wind, constipation can be alleviated with a gentle massage downwards from the bottom of the right-hand rib cage in a circular movement, following the colon to finish at the right-hand hip,” advises Emma.

    How to prepare for baby massage

    It’s important to check that your baby is happy and comfortable enough to be massaged before you begin. Don’t massage your baby if they are unwell, have a temperature, or are suffering from a rash or an irritable skin condition. And if your baby is too full or hungry they may not enjoy the experience as much.

    To prepare for the massage:
    1. Make sure the room is warm, and free from cold draughts.
    2. Prepare the area by laying a soft towel on the floor and dress comfortably.
    3. Make sure your hands are warm and clean, we suggest you remove rings and other jewellery
    4. Place your massage oil nearby with an extra clean towel.

    Introduce your baby to touch:
    1. Begin by checking that your baby is receptive to being massaged. Start by creating small gentle circles on the top of your baby’s head.
    2. Ensure you make good eye contact and smiles with your baby to let them know there is nothing to fear. This also allows your baby to communicate with you and let you know they are ready for the massage to begin.
    3. If your baby is feeling receptive to massage they will be relaxed and make good eye contact and smile with you. If your baby appears restless or agitated, this is not the right time to start the massage.

    Baby massage techniques

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    Baby massage for head and face

    Spend 2 minutes on this part of the massage.
    1. Using the first two fingers of both hands, draw small circles on the forehead moving into the hairline. Always use minimal pressure on the fragile head of a baby.
    2. Create a stroking motion from the bridge of the nose, downward across the cheekbones. Apply the same technique from the bridge moving outward across the eyebrows.
    3. Use your fingers to move down the jawbone, applying gentle pressure from the front of the ear until your fingers meet in the middle of your baby’s chin.

    Baby having his chest stroked

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    How to massage your baby’s chest and tummy

    Spend 2 – 3 minutes on this part of the massage.
    1. Apply some baby massage oil to your hands, warming it gently.
    2. Place your hands across your baby’s stomach. Very lightly, start to move your hands in circles, start to apply a little more pressure after a short time, use just a fraction more than the weight of your hand.

    How to massage your baby’s arms and hands

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    How to massage your baby’s arms and hands

    Spend 2 – 3 minutes doing this part of the massage.
    1. Holding your baby’s wrist with one hand, place the other in a ‘C’ shape cup at the shoulder, move down the arm maintaining a gentle grip.
    2. When you reach the wrist alternate your hands so your movements flow. Apply gentle pressure to your baby’s palm with you thumb creating ‘half-moons’.
    3. Massage your baby’s fingers individually, rotating your thumb and index finger.

    How to massage your baby’s back

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    How to massage your baby’s back

    This part of the massage should last just 1 – 2 minutes.
    1. Slowly and gently turn your baby onto their stomach, make sure their airway is free then apply a little more oil to your hands.
    2. Place your hands across their back, making sure not to apply any pressure to your baby’s spine. Begin circles with moderate pressure, alternating between your palms and fingertips.
    3. Gradually work your way down from upper to lower back keeping a consistent pressure and speed.

    How to massage your baby’s feet and toes

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    How to massage your baby’s legs

    Spend 2 – 3 minutes on your baby’s legs.
    1. Applying plenty of oil, start by placing your hands at the top of your baby’s left hip. Work down the leg gently rolling the leg back and forth in your palms.
    2. Gently stretch out the leg as you approach the ankle.
    3. Repeat 2 – 3 times with each leg, once complete place a hand on each hip and stroke down both legs together until you reach the ankle.

    How to massage your baby’s feet and toes

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    How to massage your baby’s feet and toes

    1. Stroke over the top and bottom of the foot, to let your baby adjust to your touch.
    2. Use your thumb to push gently into the base of the foot moving your thumb up from heel to toe, rolling your right thumb to right side of the foot and your left thumb to the left.
    3. Placing your thumb on the ball of the foot take your other hand and gently wiggle your baby’s toes from base to tip.
    Do this for 2 minutes and this ends your baby’s massage.
    We hope you both enjoyed the massage.