Quite often mummies in my classes will ask if there is any reason that they should avoid massaging their baby.
Doing massage with your baby should be relaxing, enjoyable and beneficial to both parties. Judging how your baby may be feeling when you plan to massage them is essential (tricky I know!).
The best time to massage your baby is when they are in the ‘quiet- alert’ behavioural state. Cues that can help you identify if your baby is feeling this way are: minimal body activity, bright eyes, your baby is attentive to what is going on and to what they can see and hear around them.
If your baby is overly active, hungry, full, tired, cold or feeling under the weather they will not enjoy their massage and become upset or agitated. These are examples of times when massage should be avoided.
Find the time of day that suits you and your baby best. Some babies prefer to be massaged in the morning, others prefer to be massaged at night and some just love it altogether and aren’t to fussed as long as they get their massage!
Other times when you should avoid massaging your baby include: If a baby is asleep we should not wake them up to massage them. If they fall asleep in a massage we should stop the massage and retry when they return to a quiet, alert state.
If your baby is crying it is important that you stop the massage and comfort them, massage is something you do with your baby not to your baby.
When a baby has had their immunisations it is recommended that you avoid massage with them for 48 hours. When using massage strokes we are enhancing circulation of the blood and body fluids around the body, therefore the massage could interfere with the distribution of the vaccine around your baby’s body. If a baby is feeling unwell massage should again be avoided until they are feeling better.
If your baby is engaged in their massage and enjoying it they will demonstrate a range of engagement cues. These may include:
Eyes becoming bright and wide, focusing on the caregiver
Grasping or holding onto objects in their environment (including their caregiver!)
Hand to mouth activity such as sucking their fingers/fists.
Moving eyes and head to look at others talking/ to see where sounds are coming from
It is important to note that some babies take to massage and enjoy it immediately. Other babies often take some time to start enjoying their massage, this is fine. Try massaging them for short periods and gradually build them up to be longer. If they cry stop and comfort them as you do not want them to associate their massage with feelings of distress.
Some babies may be ‘touch sensitive’. To build up a baby’s trust and confidence in being massaged It will help to get them used to ‘still touch’. This is where the parent/carer gently rests their warm hands on the part of the body to be massaged. You can start with resting hands for a few seconds at a time, building the length of time up before moving to gentle massage strokes on this area. In this instance start with a less vulnerable area of the body such as the legs, feet or hands.
Sometimes massage just takes time and practice as your baby adjusts to their new life outside of the womb, be patient and never force a massage on to your baby.
When does your baby like their massage? Leave me a comment below and let me know!