A magic touch: The benefits of baby massage
Baby massage brings benefits for both mum and baby and is particularly good for the little ones with digestive difficulties.
Baby massage is an incredible tool for effectively relieving constipation, excess wind, fussiness and colic, and it is the most natural thing in the world.
Not only that, but it soothes an upset baby, can help with creating a positive sleep routine, aids in the bonding process between parent and baby and delivers a whole host of other wonderful advantages. But an often-overlooked benefit is how it provides an outlet and a huge release for mum.
Having had a baby, particularly your first, your entire world and energy is focused on this new little bundle, and it can at times be pretty lonely. Attending baby massage classes and other mum-and-baby groups allows mums to get together and chat about the things on their mind, which would ordinarily bore your baby-free friends to tears.
Many mums attend classes because they have heard baby massage is good for all sorts of digestive problems. One of the biggest physical benefits for babies is often an immediate emptying of the bowels after the stomach massage section, which tends to be met with cheers and an enormous sense of relief from mums.
So if you have a little one who suffers from digestive discomfort, excess wind or constipation, here are some very simple steps to help you relieve this tension. Ensure your baby hasn’t fed within the preceding 45 minutes to prevent sickness, as these steps involve massaging the stomach and intestinal tract.
1) Lie your baby on their back and open or remove the nappy so you have access to the lowest part of the abdomen. Rest your hand gently on the abdomen to give baby a moment to get used to your touch. Then with hands facing horizontally (fingers pointing out to left and right sides), begin to rub down from the stomach to the base of the abdomen, one hand after the other.
2) In a clockwise direction, begin to rub all around the abdomen in one big circle, from just under the ribcage, out to the side of the abdomen, to the base, and again back up towards the ribcage. It’s very important to ensure you are stroking in a clockwise circular direction as otherwise you will work against the natural movements of the bowel.
3) Finally, do the ‘I-love-you’:
a) Visualise your baby’s stomach as a clock face. Place your fingers just under the ribcage of your baby’s right side, at 2 o’clock (as you look down at your baby lying on the floor). Rub straight down to the base of the abdomen at 5 o’clock, like you are drawing the letter ‘I’, repeating a few times, and saying the word ‘I’.
b) Draw an upside-down ‘L shape’; starting at 10 o’clock, press down while you massage across to 2 o’clock and down again to 5 o’clock. Repeat, saying the word ‘love’ to your baby.
c) Finally for the ‘U’ shape; starting at 7 o’clock, massage up to 10, across to 2 and down to 5 o’clock, for the upside-down ‘U’, saying ‘you’ to your baby. Again you can repeat a few times.
For very windy babies, at the end of the tummy massage, place your hands onto your baby’s knees. Bend the knees and bring them up towards the lower abdomen, pressing down strongly and holding for five long seconds. Repeating this several times a day is a great natural way to help a baby pass excess wind.
Do the stomach massage a couple of times a day during bad bouts of constipation, with lots of smiles and reassurance for your baby. It is not recommended to massage during crying. If your baby is unhappy, pause the massage while you rest your hands on baby’s stomach, and attempt it again when they have relaxed.
You will need to use oil for the massage, and organic, cold-pressed oils are best. In the classes at Mumandbaby.ie, we use a blend of extra-virgin olive oil and sunflower oil, but you can use whatever oil you feel is best. Ensure you apply a little pressure to assist in the natural movement of the waste through the system.
Helen Plass, founder of www.mumandbaby.ie, runs pregnancy yoga, active birthing classes, baby massage and mum & baby yoga classes in north Dublin and privately on request. Email Helen@mumandbaby.ie or call 086 772 8607 for enquiries. To look for a baby massage course close to you, visit babymassage ireland.com.