People have been massaging babies for at least 5000 years — probably forever, in fact. It has been proven medically that babies who are touched and stroked lovingly grow faster, recover from illness more quickly, sleep better, and have less constipation and digestive problems. They recover from distress more rapidly and are more settled.
Dr Frederic LcBoyer was one of the first to introduce baby massage to the West in his book, Loving Hands (Random House, USA, 1976). He asserts that ‘we have to feed babies, fill them both inside and outside. We must speak to their skins, we must speak to their backs, which thirst and hunger and cry as much as their bellies. Being touched and caressed, being massaged is food for the infant. Food as necessary as minerals, vitamins and proteins.’
You don’t have to be trained to be able to massage your baby, but it certainly helps to have read about the process and seen photographs. Here are some simple guidelines:
– Enjoy yourself — do it in a spirit of calmness and love.
– Start very gently, with light strokes for a short time.
– Keep baby warm and be seated, so you are comfortable, too — for example, sit on the floor with baby on a towel between your legs; lie baby on a rug on the floor and kneel above them to massage; or place baby on a towel on the table (but be careful and never leave them there).
– Take your cues from how the baby is reacting. If they are a little fretful, persevere and see if they settle down. If they really don’t settle, try again another time, when they may be more receptive.
– Babies have very sensitive skin. Start by stroking their limbs and back with their clothes on, or when they are wrapped in a towel after theirand while you are holding them close.
– Take two minutes for the first massage of a newborn infant, working up to a minimum of 10 minutes for a full massage with a baby of a few months of age or more.
– Talking, singing and smiling all add to the communication.
– Don’t massage straight after a feed.