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What is baby massage?

It might seem strange to take a fragile new baby and start pumelling him about, but baby massage is safe, reassuring for your baby, and a fantastic bonding activity you can start almost from birth.

Posted: 18 January 2010
by Laura Lee Davies

There aren't many activities you can do with a new baby.
Sure, you can go for walks as your baby usually slumbers, and you can read to him while he guzzles down a feed, but even before he's learnt how to crack his first smiles your baby can respond to your touch. Baby massage simply takes this and helps you to both get used to a new physical relationship, beyond cuddles.

What is baby massage?
Baby massage is gentle rubbing and movement of your baby's arms, legs, feet, tummy and back. Some of the moves help your baby to stretch out. (After months in the womb, then weeks swaddled up or snuggled close to you, it's important to allow them to open up their bodies and really breath!)
Using a simple natural oil (like olive oil), you strip your baby down, lay him or her on a towel and do some gentle exercises with your calming hands, to help him relax.
Some of the exercises help him get a feel for opening up his arms and legs, others are good for encouraging him to be feel happy lying on his tummy during waking hours (this is better for the chest and upper body development), some are soothing for tired or colicky babies, and others can ease a sore tummy.
During a session, many babies get fractious when you first take their clothes off (make sure wherever you are is nice and warm), but once he gets into the swing of a session, he'll relax. By the time you've done, some babies so relaxed they decide to have an impromptu wee (hence the need for the towel)! Others drift off into a sleep with a post-massage feed, and many hate having to get dressed again after enjoying the reassuring feel of your hands on their skin.
Even if you go to formal sessions, you can skip certain moves if your baby isn't up to them or doesn't seem to enjoy them. However, doing baby massage will build your confidence in handling your baby without the tension of treating him like fine bone china. This confidence passes to your child.

What do you do at baby massage?
Baby massage can be done at home, on your own or in front of a baby massage DVD, or with a group of friends. However, to get started and boost your own confidence, it is a good idea to find a drop-in class you can attend. You may well see notices for these kinds of session at your local baby clinic (on the noticeboard), church hall, sports centre or YMCA.
Babies are usually accepted at baby massage sessions from ten weeks, but some will let you start earlier (they will advise you to skip some of the movements), and experienced practitioners encourage more basic moves from birth. On weeks when you might have had immunisations, you will be advised to keep away from rubbing over the injection spot if you had the jabs in the last 24 hours.
The kinds of movements you might do include rubbing your baby's thighs with oil, making a bycycle motion with their legs, rubbing their back, and helping them to open out their chests by massaging their shoulders and arms.
Nothing is too dangerously physical.
Depending on where you go, the session might last anything between 30 minutes and an hour.

A precious time
I feel really lucky to have done baby massage with both of my babies, because a friend recommended it before my first was born. It was one of the mother-and-baby experiences that gave me the confidence all new parents need, in the most gentle and enjoyable way possible.
I attended them at a place called the Active Birth Centre in north London. At the time, the teacher was a guy called Peter Walker. We have reviewed a couple of his books here on the website, and he is an internationally recognised expert in the field of developmental baby massage.
Walker is an enthusiastic supporter of the health benefits of baby massage and it's worth checking out his website for more about the idea of massage and soft gymnastics (that is early movement for babies once they can sit up).

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Discuss this story

I started a baby massage class with my son when he was 9 weeks old, partly with the hope of being able to ease his colic, and it's been fantastic. Before I learned how to massage him, colic would keep him (and us)awake until at least midnight every night. From the first night of giving him a tummy massage, he's gone to sleep by 8pm at tne latest, with very little in the way of cramping or wind, making life much more comfortable for him, and less stressful for us parents. He's now 17 weeks, and enjoys a massge (only 15 minutes or so) every night as part of his bedtime routine. So if your baby suffers from colic or other tummy troubles, I'd strongly recommend giving baby massage a try.

Posted: 11/04/2007 at 22:55

aye i have heard the joys of this and am hoping to get into a class once baby's born as well as baby yoga cause i hear that helps them sleep so its so great to hear you have had good experience with it have heard alot of women have fears of hurting thier tiny child so its nice to hear it worked for you

Thanks for Sharing

From Lynne X

Posted: 02/05/2007 at 22:21

I also recommend baby massage to any new mums.

Posted: 10/05/2007 at 11:38

Hi! I give Theo a short massage too at every  bedtime and my baby loves it he sleeps from last feed '10.30 ish till 6 ish . baby masage classes can be priecy and i couldnt find any nearby classes so its worth asking your Hv as lots of free classes run locally. I hadnt been to any just used gentle stroking techniques really and gentle tumy rub! My baby also had v bad colic at worst screaming till 2am then waking every 2 hours. The hv recomeed you dont use Johnson and Johnson Oil or scented oils as they can make baby sweaty and overheat- all you need is olive oil or any other natural oil. If you want you can add 1 drop of lavender essential oil (if poss organic)- seesm to work for Theo. hope this helps! x

Posted: 29/02/2008 at 10:43

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