What Is Baby Massage?
During this class you will learn a full body massage routine that you can do at home, perhaps incorporating it into baby's bath and bedtime routine, or at another time that suits both you and your baby. Each week we learn a new routine for a different body part and we repeat what we have learnt the previous weeks. There is ample opportunity for you to practice the strokes. There are times when we would not massage baby, for example if there is any sickness or tummy upset, if there were unexplained lumps or bumps or rashes or if baby had a fever. We also wait at least 72 hours after vaccinations before we massage again.
So Why Do Baby Massage?
There are vast and numerous scientifically proven benefits of infant massage. The four main reasons for doing a baby massage course are listed below:
During baby massage, circulation throughout the body is promoted; the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to all the cells, fibres, nerves, organs, limbs etc is promoted, allowing the cells to rest, repair and grow,thereby working more efficiently.
Massage also speeds up the myelination process (nerve endings being covered in a protective sheath) and transmits more effective messages between the brain and body part.
Massage stimulates the development of the nervous system. Baby’s body is covered in nerve ending quite close to the skin’s surface, and during massage, these nerve endings are stimulated and baby becomes more aware of his body and body parts and where everything is. This is known as proprioception. Proprioception (awareness of body position, ie, where is your foot in relation to your leg) is not present at birth and needs to be learnt through experience, interaction with caregivers and particularly through baby massage.
Massage can help to sooth common ailments that many newborn babies have such as colic, trapped wind, constipation, and other digestive issues. Parents can feel empowered learning massage strokes which can relieve these discomforts. In older babies, parents learn techniques to help with teething pain, colds, and congestion by massaging the face, chest and back.
During times of normal stress, hormones and chemicals (adrenaline and cortisol) are released which enable us to deal with situations, commonly referred to as 'fight or flight'. If these hormones and chemicals are too high in the body, then we experience symptoms of stress – tight muscles, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, upset tummy, disrupted sleep etc. These symptoms are also present in babies during times of stress, eg, when they are crying or have perceived a threat. Research has shown that too much cortisol in the bloodstream can have an adverse effect on development.
During massage, particularly the back massage routine, you activate the vegus nerve, the largest nerve response for the rest and digest systems. The love hormone, oxytocin, is released, which helps to balance out the increased levels of cortisol, thus aiding relaxation in babies. Parents also release oxytocin during massage, which can increase relaxation and calmness in the parent. If the parent feels relaxed and calm, then baby tends to feel the same way.
Bonding between parent and baby is vital in creating a secure attachment for the baby. If baby has a secure attachment and a strong bond with its parents, it is more likely to have positive relationships with other people later in life. A strong bond is vital for the development of emotional and social intelligence in an infant.
5 important things which help to create the bond between baby and parent include:
* Eye contact – during the massage class, there is ample opportunity to really look at your baby, to smile at them and observe and recognise their cues. This encourages responsive parenting which leads to a trusting relationship.
* Talking to baby – we sing and talk to baby whilst doing the strokes. Baby recognises your voice as they have heard it in the womb. This singing and talking is positive, calm, playful, fun etc
* Positive touch – stimulating thousands of nerve endings in the skin,
* Exchange of smell between baby and parent – smell is imprinted on each other during skin to skin contact, which can be calming and comforting. We use odourless organic massage oil so as not to impact on this transfer of smell.
* Production of oxytocin – the love hormone is produced by both baby and parent during massage. Therefore, both are more chemically attracted to each other which is a natural part of the bonding process and leads to a secure attachment for the baby.
Baby massage enables parents to use all 5 of these concepts to encourage the bonding process in a loving, safe environment and helps to create trust and a sense of security.