Want your baby to sleep a little better? Well, adding these eight simple massage techniques to her bedtime routine post-bath will help. They all help to release the hormone oxytocin, which regulates your tot’s cortisol or stress levels, relaxing her ready for sleep and reducing crying.
Regular massage can also help build her immune system, boost her respiratory system, stimulate her circulatory system and balance her nervous system. It’ll help strengthen her digestive system, easing common newborn issues such as colic, wind or constipation, too. And this little routine only takes five minutes – better start tonight then!
All these techniques are safe to use from birth.
Start by taking a moment to watch your baby, and make sure she’s happy. Then use this opening ritual so your baby begins to understand that it’s baby massage time!
1) Asking permission
Try it: Place both hands on your baby’s chest and tell her it’s time for baby massage. Softly stroke her from head to toe.
The chest is home to your baby’s heart and lungs. And by massaging it, you help to strengthen her respiratory system and so aid her breathing – and this technique is great for easing congestion if she has a cold. It’s an incredibly soothing and loving technique because you’re in her ‘heart space’.
2) Warming the heart
Try it: Place your hands at the centre of your baby’s chest. Using the palms of your hand, sweep your hands down and around her lower rib cage several times. Repeat three to four times.
She’s been busy waggling those arms all day, and this relaxes those hard-working muscles.
3) Armfuls of joy
Try it: Gently cup her arm in your hand and, beginning at her wrist, massage all the way up to her armpit using a gentle kneading movement. Be careful not to put any pressure on her elbows. Once you reach the top, gently glide your hand down the back of her arm. Repeat three times, then massage her other arm.
For your tot, touching hands is a loving gesture – one of the earliest instincts a baby has is to grasp their carer’s finger.
4) Handfuls of love
Try it: Starting with a thumb, simply massage each thumb and finger using your index finger and thumb. If you’re short on time, you can massage both hands at the same time but be aware that older babies will try to sit up if you do this!
Massaging your tot’s tummy can help soothe wind and constipation. Regular massage can also help build her digestion, settling a colicky baby. Always massage in a clockwise direction, as this is the direction matter moves through her digestive system. Concentrate on the area around her belly button and below as this is where her digestive organs are. And be aware that the bladder is positioned quite high in a baby’s abdomen, so she may do a wee!
5) Soothing tummy rub
Try it: Using the palm of one hand, sweep down your baby’s abdomen, then change hands and repeat the movement. Keep alternating hands to repeat this rhythmic stroke for a minute or so, keeping the pace slow and maintaining lots of eye contact.
Releasing any trapped wind before bedtime will help your tot feel more comfortable. If he’s very windy then he may resist, but it’s definitely worth gently persevering!
6) Gentle knee bends
Try it: Keeping your baby’s knees slightly apart and following the natural positioning of her hips, gently bend both her knees in towards her tummy. Allow her knees to create a little pressure on her belly before releasing. Repeat a few times or until there’s an audible result!
This stroke helps to relax and soothe your baby, and boosts her circulation.
7) Sleepy leg stroke
Try it: Support your tot’s ankle with one hand. Using the other hand, gently stroke up the outside of her leg from her ankle to the top of her thigh. Then glide your hand down the back of her leg, using a slightly lighter pressure. Change hands and massage up the inside of her leg, gliding down the back of the leg again. Keep alternating hands and repeat 3–4 times for each leg.
Different pressure points on the soles of your baby’s feet connect with different parts of her body. For example, the inside arch of her foot connects with her stomach, the part just above her heel connects with her large intestine, and her toes connect with her sinuses. And by massaging your baby’s feet, you connect with all her internal body systems.
8) Blissed-out baby toes
Try it: Gently support one of your baby’s feet with one hand, and use your thumb to gently apply pressure all over the sole, finishing with a little press to the area under each of her toes. Repeat with her other foot.
Meet the Expert: Justina Perry is a wellbeing expert for pregnancy, mums and babies, and the founder of MamaBabyBliss, which supports women through pregnancy, birth and motherhood; justinaperry.com
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