benefits of baby massage
Baby basics

The benefits of baby massage

Massage is a gentle and soothing way for you to bond with your baby and it can also help to calm your little one. The benefits of baby massage are fantastic!

Baby massage offers many benefits for both mother and baby. Your soft and soothing touch can calm your baby and help her to sleep. It can also help with your infant’s digestion, improve circulation and ease teething pain.

It’s a lovely way for you and your partner to bond with your baby. Massage is best taught to those closest to baby, especially the parents, but also grandparents, guardians or siblings. Most mums have the option to breastfeed, which can be an incredible bonding experience, but massage can bring a different, though equally effective, bonding experience to dads. The best times to perform massage on your baby include after a nap, when your baby is clothed or in the cot, and after a bath.

Happy feelings

The strokes used in baby massage classes are a combination of Indian massage, Swedish massage, yoga and reflexology. When a baby is being massaged, a combination of the positive touch, bonding and overall feeling of happiness causes oxytocin, the hormone of love, to flood the system of the baby and of the person giving the massage. For mums suffering from postnatal depression, this has a natural healing effect and for babies it has a calming, relaxing effect, which in turn aids sleeping patterns.

Attend a class

Group baby massage classes are the ideal place to learn as you can meet other mums and pick up ideas from them. The instructor demonstrates on a doll and recaps all strokes taught each week. Most instructors will give out handouts that illustrate the massage strokes, and some even have spare dolls for you to massage if your baby is asleep.

Use natural odourless oil

Using oils can be complex and it is always being researched. It is recommended that you use cold pressed vegetable oils – organic where possible. Cold pressed means the oil is produced without the use of heat; which may damage its properties, some of which include vitamin E. This nourishes the skin thus allowing it to breathe and is easily digestible should the baby ingest it. Most importantly, it is odourless, which allows the natural bonding process between parent and baby to occur, without interference from other scents.

benefits of baby massage

Mum’s tip

“I loved baby massage it was such a lovely way to bond with my son and to meet other new mums. We still use some of the massage routine after my son’s bath when we’re moisturising him.” – Hannah Boylan

How does massage help my baby?

1. Baby massage helps stimulate the many systems of the body such as the skin, digestive, nervous and respiratory systems.

2. It can speed up a baby’s development, help them gain weight and enable their digestive system function more efficiently, thus easing pains and aiding colic and constipation, and in turn regulating sleep.

3. Because it impacts on all the systems of the body it is particularly beneficial for premature babies. It also helps them release stress and is most assuredly a fantastic way to communicate and bond.

Massage don’ts

  • If your baby isn’t enjoying the massage, then stop and do not continue.
  • Do not use aromatherapy or scented oils.
  • Do not massage your baby if she’s hungry or overtired.
  • Do not massage your baby if she has a temperature, skin condition or seems otherwise unwell.
  • Do not massage for 48 hours following an immunisation, and avoid the injection area for one week after the immunisation.
  • Do not wake your baby up for a massage.
  • Do not massage the stomach area immediately after a feed.

More like this:

Bath before bedtime
Soothing your baby’s pain
Common baby skin conditions

Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.

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ASK LOUISE

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….