Spending just a few minutes each day massaging your baby can help to increase the bond, interaction and communication between the two of you. But how do you start? Tina Allen, an internationally respected educator, author and expert in the field of infant and pediatric massage therapy, shares her advice.
1. Choose the best time and place. Creating the best environment for massage is an ideal way to give yourself and baby time to relax. Choose a familiar place that is warm, quiet and with few distractions. The best time for massage is when baby is awake, healthy and happy. Some babies prefer the morning, while others prefer the afternoon or before bedtime.
2. Be comfortable. Relax, enjoy and have fun! Position yourself so that you are comfortable. Be sure baby is safe and placed on a soft area. Keep in mind that babies roll and become slippery when using oil. Be sure your hands are warm and clean before you begin.
3. Consider a massage oil. While it is not required, using oil can help make massage more enjoyable for some babies and parents. Olive oil and grapeseed oil are some of the best choices for infant massage. However, if you choose to use lotions, be sure to choose a nontoxic option, like Seventh Generation baby lotion, which contains olive oil as a main ingredient.
4. Listen in. Infant massage can be a wonderful tool for increasing your communication. Massage is not something that parents do to their baby, but rather with their little one. Listen to your baby. He or she will give you the signals to let you know his or her comfort level.
5. Know when not to massage. Never provide massage when your baby isn’t receptive to it (when sleeping, crying or fussy). Avoid massage when your infant is ill, has a fever or infection, or if your little one has broken skin, a rash or bruising. Wait at least 48 to 72 hours following immunizations, and for a tummy massage, wait 30 minutes after eating. If your child has any special health care needs, seek further guidance as to what would be the safest approach.
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Benefits for baby
Encourages healthy weight gain
Increases brain development and growth
Stimulates all systems of the body
Aids in digestion
Eases discomforts associated with gas, constipation and congestion
Helps baby learn to trust caregivers
Benefits for caregivers
Increases confidence in parenting and caregiving skills
Provides a special time to bond with baby
Encourages communication with baby
Provides an opportunity to learn baby’s cues
Promotes the release of nurturing hormones