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I would like to massage my baby. How do I go about it?

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It is believed that massage helps babies relax, encourages communication and helps babies develop properly. Can I start from birth? What are the basic rules? Which products should I use?

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Your baby has just had a bath. Wound up in their bath robe, they wriggle energetically, give a hint of a first smile, pronounce their first sounds. Massage prolongs and enhances this tender complicity that you wouldn't miss out on for anything in the world. Fortunately massage is another way of communicating with your little one. Its virtues - it relaxes your baby making them feel safe, and helps develop motor ability – today it is even recognised by doctors.

Massaging is a way of learning to communicate in a different way

Babies acquire the sense of touch as of the six month of life in the womb. The "skin to skin" contact of massage from birth prolongs the contact experienced by baby in the warmth of the mother's womb. It initiates a body language that enables mums and dads to express their tenderness. You may have awaited baby's arrival with excitement but it is not always unusual for you to feel lost or overawed by the little angel demanding your undivided attention.

If your baby cries without you being able to guess what is wrong, then don't tear your hair out or seek an answer no matter what. Settle yourself down comfortably with your baby and see if they would like a massage. Magic! This special and tender moment will calm your baby down. By freeing their muscles you will relax your baby, bringing them well-being. Your protective movements will reassure your baby and help them fall asleep. Massage provides little ones with a rest from their permanent lying down position.

If your baby is writhing and crying, massage their tummy gently with the palm of your hand. The light pressure and the heat produced will sooth painful colicky symptoms. Take the time to massage your baby regularly to enable them to become gradually aware of their body.

Follow our advice on the art of massage.

Effective massage

Timing? When baby is relaxed. Before bedtime, after having changed the nappy or just after the bath. The most important thing is that both of you are available and calm for sharing a few minutes of complicity.

Place? A warm, quiet room, with no bright lights. You can lie baby on the changing table or on a bed. You can also try sitting with your baby on a blanket or pillow on your raised knees. Ideally, baby should be naked. To reassure your baby you can cover the parts of their body that you are not massaging with a soft towel. If your baby cries or does not appear to feel at ease then they probably do not feel like having a massage. You can try again later on in the day or another day altogether.

Babies should not be massaged like adults so don't take yourself for a physiotherapist! Begin gently bearing in mind that it is baby's well-being that is important not your skills. Before the age of 2 months, begin with gentle firm strokes. As baby grows you can improve your technique and intensify the massage. If you are afraid of not doing it properly or hurting your baby then read on.

How long? You can start massaging as soon as the umbilical cord falls off. Baby can be massaged for 5 to 10 minutes as of the age of around one month. Keep it short but regular rather than spaced out and lengthy.

Until what age? There is no official limit. Your child will tell you if they no longer wish to receive a massage.

What products? Use the most natural products possible (avoid using sweet almond oil due to the risk of allergy), which should be fragrance-free and paraben-free. The odour should be as neutral as possible so as not to put your little treasure off.

The right way to do it

Remove any jewellery to avoid injury to your baby. Wash your hands then coat them with oil while rubbing them together for a few minutes to warm them up. Explain to your baby what you are going to do. You can sing while massaging to reassure your baby.

The body: begin by lightly touching the whole body from the head down to the feet. The movements shown below can be repeated four to five times. Stop as soon as your little one becomes restless.

Legs: place the palms of your hands on the shoulders and move down towards the legs. Massage each leg alternately with the palm of the hand, from the groin to the ankle. Press the soles of the feet lightly with your thumb (careful, they are very sensitive!) from the heel to the toes.

Tummy: place your hands on the tummy for approximately 1 minute. Massage in a clockwise motion with the flat of the hand. Then slide one hand after the other to each side of the tummy.

Arms and hands: massage the inside of the arms with the palms of your hands. Circle the arm with your hand and descend slowly while pressing lightly. Massage the fingers and the palms of the hands by drawing small circles.

The back: Lie your baby on their tummy. Massage the back gently one hand after the other, firstly from the base of the neck to the bottom of the spine then up again. Finish with a light circular massage on the buttocks.

When you have finished, lie your baby on their back again and dress them straight away as their body temperature will have dropped due to the relaxed state induced by the massage.

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