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How to bond with your baby using baby massage

Bonding with your bub can take on many different forms. One of our favourites? Baby massage. Not only does baby massage allow you to connect with your little one, it also gives exhausted parents the chance to bond while sitting down and relaxing a little themselves, something that is always welcome when you are a busy mum or dad!

Let’s take a closer look at baby massage, why it’s a great addition to your routine, how to do it and some tips and tricks to ensure it’s a positive experience for both you and bub.

Baby massage 101

So, why baby massage? While at a very basic level, bay massage promotes positive touch which is essential for bonding with your bub, baby massage has been shown to have a whole host of other benefits. According to Healthy Children.Org, baby massage can:

  • Help lower levels of stress hormones
  • Promote sleep
  • Promote better digestion leading to less tummy upsets and things like constipation
  • Reduce instances of colic and irritability
  • Help soothe an overtired, over-stimulated or cranky baby
  • Encourage relaxation and better circulation

And the benefits aren’t just for your baby! Parents can also benefit from including regular baby massage into the daily routine. Healthy Children.Org states that regular baby massage can:

  • Increase confidence in caring for and carrying out the daily routine
  • Help parents to bond with, and form a healthy attachment to, baby
  • Help parents to read and identify baby’s cues
  • Ease everyday stress and tension
  • Build trust and security

Setting up for success

While baby massage isn’t overly complicated, it can be useful to set up a loose routine to ensure the best experience for both you and your bub. Trying to carry out a relaxing massage under bright lights, when the house is noisy and stress-levels are high is probably not going to produce the kind of results you are aiming for.

To get the most out of your baby massage session, try and choose a time where you won’t be rushed and ideally when the house isn’t too noisy and chaotic. For many families, this may be in the evening, often after bath-time.

An over-tired, hungry bub is likely not the ideal candidate for a massage, even one that may help to calm them down. With this in mind, try to avoid starting a massage right at bedtime or when baby is showing tired cues. Ideally, you could aim for a short bath or shower followed by a massage and feed for a calm, soothing end to the day. If baby is becoming tired, you can even skip bathtime and move straight into massage, boob/bottle, bed as young babies in particular don’t generally need to be bathed every day (poo-explosions withstanding).

Choose a place to massage baby that is warm enough, with lights that can be dimmed, and where you can sit or stand comfortably and ideally, not be disturbed too much by the rest of the household. Some parents will find the change table a useful spot while others prefer to lie baby down on the floor or bed. As always, being aware of safety, namely any rolling or fall risks and that airways aren’t obstructed, is key.

Some parents like using a hypo-allergenic baby massage oil or lotion while others prefer skin to skin contact without a barrier cream. This is largely personal preference. Just ensure that if you do choose an oil or lotion that it is specifically designed for bubs sensitive skin.

Massage Techniques

Gentle hands and long strokes probably sums up the best massage technique for babies. Your baby will likely indicate the kind of touch they enjoy so being responsive to their cues will help you develop your own technique.

Upper Body Massage Ideas

Imagery: https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/health-daily-care/massage/baby-massage

  1. Start at your baby’s shoulders and using long gentle strokes, work down towards the chest and across before returning back to the shoulders.
  2. Starting at the shoulders, massage down the arms to the wrists then back up again, applying gentle pressure along the way.
  3. If baby hasn’t just fed and is comfortable with it, try a tummy massage by using clockwise, circular strokes around the wider parts of the belly. Some babies don’t enjoy having their belly touched, especially if they are due for a poo, so gauge your bubs reaction and adjust your routine accordingly.

Lower Body Massage Ideas

Imagery: https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/health-daily-care/massage/baby-massage

  1. Let baby enjoy some nappy free time and massage each leg from the ankle up to mid-thigh. You can also gently bicycle legs or press knees towards the tummy to release any trapped wind.
  2. Give tootsies some attention by using your thumbs to gently massage from heel to toe.

Back Body Massage Ideas

Imagery: https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/health-daily-care/massage/baby-massage

  1. Incorporate tummy time into your massage routine by placing baby on their tummy and massaging from their neck down to their toes and back again. Some babies really enjoy this sensation while others won’t love being on their belly. Again, see how your little one feels and adjust accordingly.
  2. You can also give baby a very gently face massage by using the pads of your fingers to gently smooth across the forehead and down and under the eyes.

The do's and don't do's

  • DO try and build massage into your routine at the same time each day if you can, this can help to establish some consistency, and as your little one gets older, provide a cue for sleep-time or the next part of their day.
  • DON’T over do it. 10 - 20 minutes is absolutely long enough for massage time, especially for little babies.
  • DO make the experience sensory. Soft lighting and music can enhance feelings of relaxation and enjoyment.
  • DON’T force it. If bub is not enjoying the experience or you’re feeling stressed out trying to make it work, cut your losses and try again the next day.
  • DO use a baby-safe hypo-allergenic oil or lotion
  • DON’T use anything highly fragranced as this can upset skin.

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