Saturday, 28 November 2009

Baby massage

As well as being an excellent way to bond with your baby, massage is considered to have great benefits for babies.

In a study carried out in the US in 1986, babies in a special care baby unit were massaged for 15 minutes three times a day for ten days. All of the babies were able to go home a week earlier than expected. In a follow-up study a year later, the same babies' IQs were tested and were found to be higher than babies who had been handled routinely.

Other cited advantages of baby massage are that it can help babies who cry excessively, can help with colic and can promote better sleeping patterns.

Perhaps the biggest plus is that virtually all parents can learn to massage their babies. Check with your midwife or health visitor about classes in your area, which are also a great way to meet other mums and babies. You might also want to watch gurgle's baby massage video for a step-by-step guide.

It's very easy to learn baby massage yourself. Here are gurgle’s simple steps to get you started:

Most importantly, you have to make sure that your baby does not get cold. Lay him on a soft towel in a warm room with no drafts. Warm your hands first by covering them in oil and rubbing them together so they are warm to touch.

You will need a towel, nappy, wipes, a clean set of clothes and some massage oil. Protect the area around your baby in case he decides to have a wee half way through.

The best oil to use is olive oil as it is safe on babies' delicate skin. Avoid using aromatherapy oils or oils with nuts in them, like almond oil.

Choose a time when your baby is relaxed and quiet, and make sure you are at least one hour from or before his next feed.

Try not to press too hard on his skin. Even if you yourself enjoy a deep massage it could be dangerous for your baby. Touch your eyelids and use them as a guide to how softly you should be pressing on your baby’s skin. Try to keep one of your hands in contact with your baby’s skin at all times so that he is kept warm by the heat from your hand.

Chest and arms
Undress your baby and lay him on a flat surface on his back. Sit or kneel facing him so you are comfortable. Start by rubbing a generous amount of oil onto both hands and placing them flat onto your baby’s chest. Smooth your hands around the chest area, up over his shoulders and run them all the way down to his toes. Make sure you keep eye contact with him and smile or sing a familiar tune. Now run each of your hands down his arms, trying not to get any oil on his fingers in case he puts them in his eyes. Starting at the top of the arm you can twist your hand around his arm in a gentle circular motion and repeat a few times.

Always massage his tummy in clockwise circles rather than anti-clockwise, as his digestive system works clockwise. Place your hand flat on his tummy and rub gently around in circles. This massage can be useful if you have a colicky baby.

Apply more oil each time you move to a new area so that your hands glide easily over your baby’s skin. Smooth down each leg gently, then hold on to his ankle with your other hand at the top of his other leg. Pull down, gently straightening his leg out. Repeat this with the other leg. Now put your hand at the top of his thigh and twist your hand in a circular motion down his leg to his ankle. Repeat this with the other leg.

Hold on to one of his legs at the ankle and rub up and down his toes with your other hand. If you put your thumb just underneath his toes on the bottom of his foot he will flex his toes around your fingers. Make sure you get oil between his toes where cotton from his clothes is collected. Repeat this on his other foot then rub up and down each leg again.

Ask your baby if he would like to roll onto his front. Some babies don’t like this but it is a good way to introduce your baby to spending some time on his tummy, which is vital for coordination, balance and postural control which helps babies to reach important milestones like crawling and walking. Take care not to touch his spine, put your hands either side of his back and run them up and down from his shoulders to his toes.

When you have finished, wrap your baby in a warm towel so he does not get too cold and shower him with kisses and cuddles.

The information in this feature is intended for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your health, the health of your child or the health of someone you know, please consult your doctor or other healthcare professional.

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