When administered correctly, massaging your baby has limitless benefits. Aside from all of the fabulous physical perks your infant receives lies the most important side effect of all: the deep and lasting connection you foster with your child. Susan Norris, Certified Infant Massage Instructor, helps us take a deeper look at the benefits and techniques of infant massage.
As a massaging mother, Susan quickly figured out the multifaceted pros of massage. “I was amazed to find that the massage benefits me in the same ways it benefits him. I am more relaxed. I am sleeping better. I am communicating more clearly. There are no negative results. It is such a simple and amazing thing that requires nothing more than a few moments of time, a bit of oil and my two hands.”
There’s a lot to learn about infant massage, but with Susan’s guidance we’ve picked up a few tips to help you begin this rewarding process.
The only supplies you’ll need are your hands, your baby and a bottle of edible massage oil. “You don’t have to buy any special massage oil,” says Susan. “I buy olive, sunflower, safflower, canola, apricot kernel or grape seed oil at the grocery store and transfer it to smaller, more manageable bottles.” You may also want to lay a towel out for your baby to sit on. Susan notes that “massage releases hormones that help the body process food and nutrients,” so be prepared for the session to get a little messy!
To begin, it’s important to be relaxed and connected with your baby. Turn off the ringer on your phone and ignore interruptions. Show him the massage oil and ask if he is ready for his massage. “You are working together to figure out how you communicate with one another. You are teaching your baby that you respect his wants and needs, and baby is starting to understand what he needs to do for you to start and stop,” says Susan. If he’s happy (not hungry or tired), chances are he’ll be cooing and ready for a rub. If not, he’ll provide you with a few “disengagement clues,” like fussing or wailing, and you’ll know it’s time to try something new or put off the massage for later.
Always start with sustained or “still” touch—placing your hands firmly and confidently on your baby’s chest or tummy. “This is massage without movement, and the easiest ‘stroke’ for a baby to take in,” says Susan. Baby’s neurological systems are unorganized and growing—you don’t want to give him a sensory overload by rubbing too much too quickly. “Work to appeal to one sense at a time until you discover what appeals to your baby.”
The still touch is also the move you should always return to if your baby becomes squeamish or upset during the massage.
After your baby is comfortable with this move, begin moving your hands simultaneously, slowly and firmly in downward strokes along his front, back and sides. “Work back and forth between these two modes of still touch and long integrating strokes until baby is able to take in the movement over her entire body. Then you can introduce more stimulating strokes that focus on specific body parts,” says Susan. Try working one leg or arm at a time for starters. Also, be prepared to improvise. “Because your infant will start moving and grooving before you know it, it is important to understand the strokes are presented by body part, but they are more like ingredients in an unknown recipe, and when and how you present them is up to you and baby’s mood.”
No matter where your rubbing begins or ends, infant massage can be infinitely rewarding, and you’ll quickly learn that it’s a time you and your baby will both cherish and adore.
Try these wonderful infant massage guides:
David Stark, Producer and Director of BabyBabyOhBaby—Bonding With Your Brilliant & Beautiful Baby Through Infant Massage DVD, has created a heartfelt 45 minutes of soothing music and giggling babies for your learning pleasure. This DVD is perfect for anyone wanting to familiarize themselves with the magic of massage.
If you’re more of a bookworm, Hands on Baby Massage by Michelle R. Kluck-Ebbin bodysuit/book combo is a great, informative guide for even the most amateur mommy and daddy masseuses.