The following are questions our nbb expert panel member Helen Pritchard usually gets asked about baby massage.
Babies can be massage from birth in a loving and gentle way within the home. If you are doing baby massage in your own calm, warm environment and have no concerns about your baby’s health you can start from day one. Remember that newborns can be very sensitive so be very gentle, massage lightly through the clothes to start with and only for short periods at a time. They may also like to be massaged in your arms, or propped up on your knees facing you as this makes them feel more secure. For a newborn short sessions of five to ten minutes are plenty and use feather light strokes as opposed to the firmer stokes you would use with an older baby. Gradually build up to larger sections of the routine and working with oils and different techniques. Once past 6 weeks old going along to a class can be very beneficial with the added bonus of getting to know other parents with small babies.
An organic, cold pressed, carrier oil standard oil such as Grapeseed is recommended over commercially produced mineral baby oils. This is mainly due to the way that mineral oils sit on the surface of the skin compared to the natural oil which will be absorbed into and nourish the skin. Almond oil can be used although as it is nut oil precautions should be taken. With any oil it is important to test a small amount on the inside of the wrist and watch for 24 hours for any irritation. When choosing oil it is important to look for the least amount of ingredients and specifically no added fragrance. Babies are very dependent on smell for recognition, comfort and feeding and may become confused if you use oil with added perfume.
A full routine often takes between 20 and 30 minutes however do not expect your baby to tolerate this, particularly when they are young or you have only recently started massaging them. It takes time for them to recognise the signals of the start of the massage and associate the pleasurable experience with the massage routine. Build up to the full routine over time, starting with five minutes at a time. Use a routine that is split into areas and work with the part your baby enjoys the most first. Remember to always massage both sides of the body each time to ensure a balanced outcome. However this could mean just doing feet during a nappy change or hands during a feed. If you have problems with colic and wind, abdominal massage is important so take 5 minutes per day to gently massage the abdomen in a clockwise direction.
If your baby is ill, has a temperature or recently had vaccinations. Also do not massage straight after a feed or when your baby is upset or hungry. It is important to create positive associations therefore we do not continue to massage if baby is upset and crying, for any reason.