Massage is a great baby calmer and can help your bond to grow stronger. What’s more, it’s pretty easy once you know what to do and what to use (and no, it's not olive oil)
While any one-on-one time with your newborn is important, baby massage comes with extra benefits.
Touch produces the nurturing hormone oxytocin, which is great for bonding, as well as promoting sleep. What’s not to like?
When to begin?
You can start when you like, although wait until your baby’s eight weeks old before taking him to a class.
‘This is simply because babies sleep so much before then, so it’s better for the class environment if they’re older and able to take part for longer,’ says baby massage instructor Gayle Berry.
Choose the right time
Your newborn will be in the mood for a massage around 45 minutes after a nap and feed. ‘When all his needs have been met, he’ll be in a “quiet alert” period and most amenable to massage,’ says Gayle.
But remember, babies have good and bad days, so if he starts crying and isn’t wet or hungry, stop, give him a cuddle and just try again later.
Dim the lights and put on some music to create a relaxing atmosphere. ‘Place a towel on a changing mat or on the floor in a warm room, undress your baby and lay him on his back, facing you,’ says Gayle.
‘Kneel in front of him or have one knee either side of his body, making sure your back is supported.’
When it comes to products, try organic sunflower seed oil designed for baby massage. It's best to steer clear of olive oil - even though it's the perfect go-to for cooking, research has shown it's not great for your baby's sensitive skin.
At home techniques
Warm some oil in your hands, and use gentle strokes.
‘Your newborn will be used to having his legs and feet moved around because of nappy changing, so start with those as opposed to his tummy, which may be more sensitive,’ says Gayle.
As you build confidence, try ‘soothing strokes’, where you move your hands from just above his belly button towards his hips, one after the other, to help move wind through the bowel.
‘I also like “foot stroking”, where you use your thumbs to stroke the soles of your baby’s feet from heels to toes,’ says Gayle.
Get dad involved
Massage is a great way for your partner to bond with your baby so hand over the task to him. ‘It gives him skin-to-skin contact, something you achieve more easily through things such as breastfeeding,’ says Gayle.
Reap the benefits
Baby massage is also great for relieving physical discomfort. ‘For example, your newborn’s digestive system isn’t fully developed, so stroking can ease conditions such as colic and constipation,’ says Gayle.
Become a pro
If you don’t enrol in a class, invest in a book such as Baby Massage by Peter Walker (£9.99, Carroll & Brown) to ensure you have the correct technique. For instance, don’t work on a newborn’s head, as it’s still developing.
‘Also, avoid putting pressure on joints,’ says Gayle.
Learn at your pace
Take massage at your own pace, so you enjoy it, too.
‘Do it for five or 10 minutes at first,’ says Gayle. ‘Touch is what’s important, so even stroking your baby’s face while you’re feeding is still beneficial.’