Steph’s Baby and Toddler Massage Tips
For this month's blog, we've asked Steph - a certified infant massage instructor, kindergarten teacher and mama of three (4-year-old, 2-year-old and 3 months) why she loves practising and teaching baby massage and to share her best tips!
WHY BABY MASSAGE?
Baby massaging has been loved and practised for centuries by many families around the world. When you communicate with your baby through positive touch, you can help to promote a sense of feeling safe and secure. By giving your baby a massage, you can provide a similar environment to what your baby has been familiar with in utero. Not only have I loved teaching baby massage to families in my community, I have also loved practising massage at home with my three little ones. I understand firsthand how busy life can be with juggling the day-to-day family routine including sleep and feed times, meal prep, work commitments, tackling the never-ending pile of washing, play dates and kinder drop offs. As a parent, sometimes, life can feel a little overwhelming. During the day after a nappy change when the toys are spread out on the play mat or at the end of the day after bath time, is when I love to block out the ‘outside distractions’ and offer my little ones a massage. It has been the perfect way for us to wind down and doesn’t feel like a chore. It is just a nice way to slow down and spend some one-on-one time together.
We're sure you're wondering how you can get started? Sit down and grab your cuppa. You're really going to enjoy these easy-to-follow massage tips for home.
TIP 1: GETTING STARTED!
Practising baby massage is such a special way to bond and get to know your baby in their early months. If you haven’t started massaging early on, there is no need to worry! You can get started with massaging at any age. You can begin by gently massaging your baby/toddler either on their skin or over their clothing. Take your time, enjoy the calm and don’t forget to lap up those ‘feel good’ hormones that are being released as you are gently massaging your little one. Yes, that’s right…the perks of massage are pretty amazing!
TIP 2: SET UP THE SPACE
You don't need a great deal of things to begin your massage. It may help to store the items you will use for massage on your nappy change table or somewhere close by so that you can easily reach what is needed for the massage. Below is a list of the things to do or have on hand to help get ready for your baby/toddler massage session.
- Warm room - Before you settle down, have you warmed up the room? If you are practising a full body massage, your baby/toddler will have their body exposed so you will need to ensure they are feeling comfortable, warm and cosy.
- Dim lighting - Do you have a lamp close by? Flick it on, close the blinds and create a tranquil space for you and your baby/toddler. Setting the space with dim lighting can also encourage your child to be ready to transition to their sleep time after the massage session.
- Playmat or towel - You can set up your space with either a soft fluffy towel or playmat for your baby/toddler to lay down on. If you are promoting nappy-free time during your baby massage session, you may like to have a cloth nappy or towel handy, so that you can quickly grab and place it over your baby/toddler’s bottom if needed.
- Oil/lotion - If you would like to use an oil or lotion when massaging your baby ALWAYS perform a ‘patch test’ using your oil or lotion at least 24 hours prior to giving your baby a massage. In the earlier months, recent research suggests using an oil or lotion on our baby’s skin that does not contain food-based ingredients until your child is at the age to eat solid foods and has ingested the food ingredient orally (via eating). This advice has been given to try to minimise an allergy response. Once your child is older and has ingested the food products orally you can choose a food-based oil or lotion. The oil/lotion may have one or a few of the following ingredients: grapeseed oil, sunflower seed oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, almond oil, avocado oil (just to name a few). Whatever you choose, ensure you are familiar with the ingredients listed on the bottle and if you have any question touch base with your family’s medical practitioner to ask further questions. You can also find up to date information written by health professionals online by visiting The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne.
TIP 3: IT'S TIME TO MASSAGE!
Before you massage your baby, it is very important to check in with your baby/toddler to see if this is the appropriate time for a massage. You can begin asking the question, “Would you like to have a massage?” The main thing you need to look for when you ask your baby/toddler permission to massage is that they communicate a positive response. If you are massaging your baby in the early days and they cannot respond verbally, you can still look for a positive engagement cue as a response e.g. a smile, reaching out arms, mutual gaze or their arms and legs may be moving around in a playful way. Your baby will also look comfortable, calm, and content. Do not massage your baby if they are uncomfortable, unsettled, or if you are unsure. There is plenty of time to save it for another day.
When you are massaging it is advised to begin your baby massage sessions with the strokes being gentle, light and slowly practised. Avoid including strokes that feel 'ticklish'. As your baby becomes familiar with the massage routine, the ideal depth of your baby massage stroke is for the skin to be ‘just’ moving. Always watch your baby for feedback.
To begin with, most babies enjoy having their legs and feet massaged. The legs and feet are an area of the body where your baby will already be familiar with being handled from having their nappy changed. By starting the massage here, you will encourage your baby to feel calm, relaxed and ready to enjoy a massage. Warm up your hands...let’s do this!
TIP 4: DON'T LET THE FUN FINISH HERE!
When you have finished massaging your baby/toddler, if they are still happy laying down, feeling calm, content and engaged, you may like to sing a fun nursery rhyme. Your child will love hearing your soothing voice. After-all, they are your number one fan! Next up, grab a favourite toy or item for some visual eye-tracking play. This may be a small soft toy, a finger puppet or even a sock. Hold your item just above your baby/toddler’s eyes and slowly move it up roughly one metre high. Then bring it back closer to your baby’s face and move it out to the left and then back over to the right. Always remember your baby will find this game more interesting when they are in the ‘quiet alert’ or ‘active alert’ state. If they do not seem to be engaging with this type of activity then you may like to pop them in their pyjamas, wrap them up in their cosy blankets and get them ready for bed instead. Zzzzzzzz. All of this talk about massage and calm play is making me feel so relaxed and dozy!
TIP 5: NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!
Yes! You did read that correctly. Now that your little one/s are in bed, why not grab a hot drink, sweet treat and ask your loved one to give your hands a massage. After all, your hands have been busy today with changing tiny clothes, lifting, tidying, washing, working, gardening, typing, cooking, cleaning, booking appointments, driving and cuddling small humans… Yes! The list does go on. Quick! Enjoy your massage now, before you are also in the land of nod. Happy relaxing Mama and Papa!
Don’t forget that the beauty of practising massage at home with your little one is that you can begin massaging your baby in the early days (or whenever it happens for you) and continue to massage and enjoy the benefits of massage for many years to come. By following Steph’s Tranquil Bubs massage tips, we hope to empower you to continue to practise the wonderful bonding experience of massage, into the preschool stage and so on...just as Steph has, with her little ones.
*This is general advice only. If you have concern about your own or your baby’s health, always ensure you contact your medical practitioner to seek advice.
This blog was written for Rudie Nudie by Stephanie Hedditch. Steph's Instagram is @tranquil_bubs
You can find out more about Tranquil Bubs here https://tranquilbubs.com.au/