Updated: Dec 23, 2021
I initially started teaching Baby Massage to cover a good friend on maternity leave with her twins, thinking it would complement what I do nicely anyhow. I didn’t expect to love it and learn from it as much as I have and do. So I wanted to share with you how precious it is for babies, parents, maybe grandparents and carers too.
The History of Baby Massage
Baby massage is older than people may realise. It has been passed down through generations in many different countries across the world; including Asia, Africa and New Zealand. It was brought to the USA by a lady called Vimala McClure. During her stay in India in the 1970’s, McClure saw mothers massaging their babies as she walked around the villages. Also, when she fell ill, she experienced how the people there used massage to help some of the patients back to health. When I had Matilda, we just went to class as it sounded nice. I had no idea of the numerous benefits until I came to teach it.
Bonding through baby massage
I didn’t have trouble bonding with Matilda but I still could have done more massage with her. I had a traumatic birth experience and so struggled with PTSD and anxiety for a while afterwards. (I can only tell that in hindsight.) Human touch is like nutrition, especially for babies. It literally nourishes them. Some of the massage strokes involve songs or rhymes so it is also nice to use your voice (another way to release stress is to sing) and gently entertain your baby that way. Baby massage helps produce Oxytocin, the love hormone, so it can help with depression and PTSD.
Not just for babies, but older children too
I still do massage on Matilda and she’s 7. When we’ve gotten cross with each other and need to calm down and re-connect, I like to offer her my love with some massage. And she’ll often ask for it now too which is lovely. Once babies get to like their massage, even though you think they may crawl away whilst you do it, they’ll often pause to watch me (the teacher) or take in what another baby is doing, so it’s a great learning/social environment in class too.
Baby massage is commonly sought by parents of babies with constipation, wind or colic. It can be excellent to help ‘get things moving’ and release trapped wind through some very simple strokes. As well as my daughter, I’ve had the pleasure of massaging my niece and a friend’s baby and had reports of “they did a poo soon after! Thank you!”.
I’m a posture geek in my other work as a personal trainer and yoga teacher so I was excited to learn that baby massage can also help with posture. You might be thinking “posture for babies?!”. However, we might realise as adults that our posture could be better and we may suffer due to tight shoulders or standing badly, so why not work on it from a tiny age? Poor habits can start early on; for example wearing stiff soled shoes too soon can inhibit the natural movement of the foot. Through a few simple strokes or just an awareness of the body holding tension, you could help your child hold their body in greater comfort and confidence. I’d love my daughter to have a good awareness of her body and it’s capabilities as she grows older. When babies begin to crawl or walk they can sometimes develop tension in the hips or shoulders for example (as it’s a bit like body weight exercise), so this hands on time in massage can help you identify and remedy this. Below are a couple of case studies to show what Baby Massage has helped with in my classes. Names have been changed for privacy:
Jade and Oscar: Jade came to class with Oscar and said she couldn’t put him down at all, he needed to be held all the time. Cuddles are great, of course but also us Mums need a few minutes to use both hands. Jade said after the first course the Oscar was way more content and less clingy. She could put him down and he’d calmly watch her instead. (Jade and several of her NCT pals came to the course three times in a row.)
Rita and Amber: Baby Amber came with her Mum, Clare a few times and when Amber was a bit older, she came every week with her Granny, Rita. It was lovely to see the two of them come and enjoy this time together, so Clare could get some rest or run an errand or two. Rita was having chemotherapy during the time they came to class so I’d often pick up little Amber for her, as she was weak. I’m happy to say she made a full recovery from the cancer. I think baby massage was their special bonding time, so that Amber got to know Granny that way too. Very moving…