The power of a parent's touch
When a woman gives birth, she will cuddle, hold, kiss and generally touch the baby. The toes are all counted and the baby is sniffed, licked etc!! This is the beginning of massage
for the new mum - and shows that there is no mystifying element to this therapy, it is simply a natural extension of what is already happening. To make the touch formal as a massage is an easy step and will help with bonding and with communication between the baby and its parents.
Other areas where massage can help:
• Improved lung capacity
• Improved skin – fewer incidents of eczema and other rashes are reported if massage is used frequently
• Improved sleep – something we all need when there is a baby about!
• Improved digestion – less colic and wind
It is really important however, to choose the right time to massage baby. If you massage when the baby is tetchy and hungry and you are also tired, it will not work – the baby will associate massage with a stressful time. Wait until after the baby has been fed, or had his evening bath and is relaxed, then you will get the results and rewards that you need.
There are no rules really for doing baby massage, except for two very simple ones:
• Always massage towards the heart – lots of baby massage books and videos show movements pulling down the leg. Really, to keep the circulation healthy, all movements should have slightly more pressure on the way up the body than on the way down
• Use really good quality carrier oils. If you use cooking oil, or baby oil (which is mineral oil and designed to prevent urine soaking the skin from a wet nappy) you are more likely to get eczema or other skin rashes, which can cause distress rather than calm. Vegetable oils should be organic and cold-pressed for babies, which means that usually you will need to visit a health store or specialist supplier as these oils are not usually available in supermarkets.
Using essential oils with massage is not recommended in the early stages unless the blend has been prescribed by a fully qualified aromatherapist. However, mandarin or lavender essential oils can be used carefully at the beginning by putting one drop of one of the oils on a tissue tucked under the mother’s bra strap for the baby to smell while feeding. Using the same smell every feed will relax the baby and encourage easy feeding. By putting the same oil on a tissue, tucked under the corner of the cot sheet, the baby will sleep more easily and will not be so fretful in the night, because she has learned to associate the smell with mummy and food and cuddles!
This can be useful when leaving the baby with a sitter - simply leave the tissue with the sitter and the baby is reassured by the smell he has come to associate with everything that helps him to feel safe.