It’s never too early to start massaging your baby. Most mothers instinctively touch and stroke their babies from the minute they’re born. Tina Otte offers some advice. Tina Otte is the editor of the “Your Pregnancy Magazine”, an internationally certified childbirth educator and author of “Tina Otte’s Pregnancy and Birth Book.”
Touch is critical in the development of the tactile system and is very important in the general development of your baby. The tactile system has to do with touch and can influence later motor planning and emotional stability in your child.
Massaging your newborn baby has many benefits, not only for the baby, but for mom as well.
Moms feel wonderful when they do something so positive and intimate with their baby. All your feel good hormones flood into your body and make you feel closer to your baby and more confident in handling and understanding her. Your breastfeeding hormones also go into overdrive, and your milk supply will be increased. Due to this, your stress hormones close down, allowing you to open up to feelings of love and nurturing as you touch and gaze at your tiny newborn.
For the baby, benefits include stimulating and enhancing of the immune system, making your baby less likely to develop any illness. Massage opens the respiratory system, making breathing easier. Research has shown that babies who are massaged gain weight better, because the endocrine system increases levels of growth hormones during massage. This is especially important for premature babies. Blood and lymph are moved around the body more efficiently getting rid of waste and toxins. Muscles are toned and strengthened for what lies ahead and healing happens faster as well. Very importantly, the digestive system in a baby is always a concern for new mothers. Colic and winds are often troublesome and massage can ease a lot of discomfort as peristalsis is speeded up and a healthy digestion is promoted.
Most important of all is the fact that your baby is learning about himself and about his world as well as about his mom and dad, through the experience of touch. Let dad have a go at massaging his tiny baby. Men and women touch their babies in different ways, and babies expect this and get to know who is who, not only through looking, but through their sense of touch as well.
Regular massage is a powerful way for you and your baby to get to know each other, so try and do some everyday.
Follow these guidelines before starting
- Do this at a time when your baby is lying quietly with her eyes open and her limbs relaxed
- Make sure that you have no chance of being distracted for at least 10 minutes
- Make sure the room is comfortably warm, remembering that newborns cannot maintain their body temperature as well as you can
- There should be no bright lights above you as this could be distracting and uncomfortable for your baby, as well as make it difficult for her to focus on your face.
- Make sure that you have clean towels to lay her on and a warm cotton blanket close by.
- Use a good quality mineral oil or a cold pressed vegetable oil, and always pour oil into your hands before putting it onto your baby. Rub your hands together, warming them as well as the oil.
- You should be comfortable and relaxed and take a deep clearing breath before you start.
- Keep the rhythm slow and the pressure of your touch firm but gentle. This is very soothing and calming for baby.
- Gently ask your baby for permission to massage by looking into her eyes and getting her attention. This is very important, and even though you may think she cannot answer you, she certainly can let you know if she wants to be massaged, or if she has had enough. Your baby will associate ‘asking permission’ with massage. This goes a long way in building trust and a healthy attitude to being touched.
It is recommended that you learn more from someone with a qualification in baby massage. There is so much more to know and this is a time when you can connect with your baby in many different ways. As your baby gets older and tolerates massage for longer, she will respond with glee, every time she sees you rubbing the oil in your hands. Don’t be surprised if she has her own way of asking for massage, such as wriggling her toes against you or waving her arms and legs around with smiles after bath time. Big brother or sister can also learn how to massage and get involved positively with the new baby. Enjoy.