Baby massage has become increasingly popular since the late 1990's, although it is a tradition which has been practised for many years in several cultures including Indian and African.
What is baby massage?
The technique involves using a variety of strokes and gentle holds on your baby, using a high quality non-fragranced oil. These soothing holds and rhythmic strokes are given on each area of baby's body by a parent or primary carer, following a sequence that has been developed over many years.
Long before babies are able to speak, they communicate with the world around them through touch and we naturally communicate the same way with them. Massaging your baby is an extension of the instinctive natural impulse to use touch to soothe, heal and communicate and has a wealth of benefits for both parent and child.
What are the benefits for the baby and their parent?
The extensive benefits for young babies includes;
- Supporting babies in feeling securely attached and with their parents/caregivers to allowing the baby to feel loved, valued and respected.
- Potentially reducing crying and emotional distress.
- Increase levels of relaxation and allow the baby to sleep for longer.
- Develop a babies’ awareness of their bodies and supports their co-ordination.
- Provide relief from wind, colic, constipation and teething discomfort.
Baby massage does not just hold countless benefits for the baby, but for parents too. Participating in baby massage classes and learning these strokes and skills enables the parent to feel closer to their baby as well as gaining a deeper understanding of their babies’ behaviour, what their cries mean and their body language cues. The classes I run provide an enjoyable opportunity to spend 1:1 time with the baby, therefore promoting and supporting the bonding process.
For many parents, the skills learned during a baby massage course become life-long parenting skills and enable the parent to feel the relaxing effects of massaging in addition to increasing confidence in their ability to care for and nurture their baby.
Real experiences and continued support
I have been an IAIM (International Association of Infant Massage) registered baby massage instructor for over 10 years, and am now registered as one of their Certified Infant Massage Instructors. During this time, I have been lucky enough to witness first-hand the incredible effects massage has on both parents and their babies; supporting them through a range of physical and emotional issues common in early childhood/parenthood.
Recently, I met some young parents who were struggling to cope with a new-born and much older parents who have had successful careers, but struggled with exactly the same things. It was very powerful to watch these parents bond together, learning at the same time to cope with another life so dependent on them. I have also met many parents with additional needs that need time and extra explanation of the massage strokes but when they realise that they have perfected them and can see their own babies relax and respond to them, it is incredibly moving.
Many parents have lost babies, have been very poorly themselves or their babies have had to fight for their lives. I allow these parents time to talk openly and frankly about their experiences and sometimes it is the first time they have allowed themselves to do that. It is incredibly powerful, humbling and heart-breaking to hear their stories but it then allows them time to work through their emotions and feelings to promote healing and strength. I always signpost these to the midwife counselling service at the hospital or liaise with their workers if I feel they need extra help in dealing with their emotions.
Baby massage is so much more than ‘just’ massaging your baby. It's about bonding and forming a golden thread that will run between you both for the rest of your life, picking up on your baby’s cues and learning about each other’s needs. It’s about creating an environment that is relaxed and calm, close and about the basic human need of love and nurturing touch. I love my job and I am very grateful that I have been able to assist with babies and parents in the very early days when it matters most to make those lasting bonds.
Victoria Rose-Carless is a mum of three children aged 14, 13 and 3. She lives in Worthing, West Sussex with her family. Victoria is a qualified beauty therapist, nursery nurse and has been delivering baby massage in West Sussex for over 10 years. She is currently the only named IAIM certified baby massage instructor in West Sussex.