I am pleased to welcome Kim Lyons, MEd, CMT, as she shares all about how we can help our babies through the use of Infant Massage.
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Touch is as essential as food and water in a child’s development. Through touch, families are able to listen, communicate, and read cues more effectively.
Even if you’ve never done any infant massage before, massage strokes are easy to learn or make up and the benefits are numerous.
Research has shown that infant massage:
- Relieves colic, gas and constipation.
- Reduces discomfort from teething, congestion and stress.
- Promotes deeper sleep.
- Regulates and strengthens the immune, digestive and nervous systems.
- Enhances verbal and nonverbal communication.
- Aids in circulation.
- Improves muscle tone.
- Introduces body awareness.
- Increases confidence in parenting.
As parents we instinctively touch our baby: rubbing baby’s head while feeding, stroking a cheek, patting a back, it’s all right there in your hands. A simple way of introducing infant massage when you haven’t learned formal strokes is by just jumping in.
Make sure your hands are clean, the room is warm and baby is not hungry, wet or sleepy. Baby should be naked or in a diaper laying on a cozy towel or blanket.
To begin, rub your hands together where your baby can see them. This is the baby sign to ask permission to begin massage. As you rub, ask baby, “Can I massage your body?” Wait for signs of readiness, such as eye contact, a quiet and alert expression, cooing or smiles before starting. Then, if you are using it, you can add a dime size drop of oil to your hands and begin massaging. Using an all-natural, organic unscented cooking oil like olive oil to massage, helps your hands glide over baby’s skin. You can test patch an area first to make sure there are no allergic reactions to the oil you choose.
After asking permission and with oiled hands, start at the shoulders and flow downward. Then, take a journey around the body, up, down on baby’s front, sides, back and head. I find long strokes are good first strokes as they cover the whole body and flow nicely.
As you travel around be sure to keep these massage rules in mind:
First, the slower the stroke is, the more relaxing it is. These are the ones you want to use before sleep. Reserve the quicker strokes for times when baby is awake and playful as fast is more stimulating.
Second, be sure you are making full contact with your hand, nothing light or feathery as that will only aggravate the nervous system rather than calm it.
Third, when you work on the belly, be sure you go in a clockwise motion around the belly button as digestion flows clockwise. Your intention is to assist with the system, not back it up.
Last, seek out muscles to massage, not bone or joints. It doesn’t feel good to massage on bone and the joints are still developing. If you wonder how it feels, try strokes out on yourself or on your partner.
During these flowing strokes you might be inspired to pause in different places around the body and explore in more detail. Your baby’s yummy thighs to circle round, toes to roll one by one, or pressing into and around the palms of the hands. Always take cues and get feedback from your baby along the way. Sometimes massage lasts 5 seconds and sometimes 50 minutes, but be respectful and listen to your baby’s limits.
Massage techniques can start with your newborn baby and grow with your child through every stage. Regardless of your child’s age, try out some massage today.
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Kim Lyons, M.Ed., CMT has been working with children and families in educational settings and private practice for 25 years. She teaches classes in the San Francisco Bay Area and is the author of Homemade Play: Creative Ways to Be With Your Baby. For more information, visit www.homemadeplaybook.com.
All photography © by Niall David Photography