5 reasons to massage your baby
Baby massage has been around for hundreds of years, from ancient India, to China, Africa, South East Asia and around the globe. Indeed, I suspect that parents have been lovingly stroking their babies forever. Whilst baby massage classes are a relatively new trend for the western world (classes in the UK started in the '80s), it is increasingly becoming a popular activity for new parents to undertake in the early weeks of caring for infants. So what's all the fuss about? Why is baby massage so helpful?
1. Baby massage helps babies’ sleep, digest and feel good
It's becoming more and more well known that skin to skin is the best possible start for babies when they are born. This direct contact with Mum's body after birth helps to regulates baby's heartbeat and breathing. It helps babies adjust to the sudden experience of the bright noisy world outside the womb.
These benefits don't end a few hours after birth though. Skin to skin contact continues to be a reassuring and physically regulating experience for babies and children throughout the early years. Sleeping, feeding and crying are often the main concerns of new parents and baby massage helps them all! When we lovingly and respectfully massage our babies, we lower their stress hormones, stimulate their digestion, and help them to release tension, resulting in happier, calmer babies. If you've ever had a massage yourself, remember how great you feel afterwards. How good your body feels, how much better you sleep. Now imagine that you're in a new unfamiliar environment and your days are filled with endlessly learning multiple new things whilst not speaking the language. And then imagine coming into a quiet calm space and your most loved and special person gives you a loving massage. Bliss.
2. Baby massage helps parents’ sleep, digest and feel good
Birthlight baby massage stands out from other classes as we integrate postnatal yoga and nurture into each class. We teach gentle and effective stretches for mothers that are suitable right from birth, helping to heal, gently strengthen and align the body. We also enjoy a shared relaxation with the babies at the end of each class, and mothers and babies very quickly learn to enjoy this quiet and restful cuddling time. By engaging in these safe and effective yoga practices we lower our stress hormones and release tension held in the body and the mind.
One of the Birthlight principles is to 'mother the mother', providing a nurturing space in which we can take time to digest our birth experiences. The transition to parenthood can be a steep learning curve, and taking time to let all these new bodily and psychological experiences settle helps us to be more resilient and less stressed. Babies require a lot of intense caring and by looking after ourselves, we in turn, are more able to find the patience and creativity needed to care for our little ones.
3. Baby massage helps you learn to speak your baby's language
So many of the trickier moments of new parenthood are about staring at your little one thinking- What? What is it? Hungry? Tired? Bored? Cold? Hot? What's wrong? What do I do? How do I make you feel better?
One of the lovely things about taking the time to spend quality one to one time with your baby, massaging them and interacting with them is that we learn to speak their language. We become attuned to this other tiny person, so that we begin to recognise their facial expressions, their body language and the different tones of crying. We start to feel that we know what to do, without necessarily having to think it all through, but just through following our parenting instincts, our gut feelings. One of the benefits of doing this in a class setting is that you have a teacher to guide you - to point out some of the ways we read baby cues. We also have the opportunity to learn from the others in the class, seeing how other babies react, and especially seeing babies a little older than our own, so that we see what we may expect in the weeks to come.
4. Baby massage creates a wonderful social bonding space
There is really something special about being welcomed into a warm nurturing space when you have a little baby. Somewhere you know you show up joyful, full of new parent excitement, or feeling wretched, tired and emotional, or anywhere in between. You can show up with a baby crying or sleeping, you can feed or walk your baby around the room. You can be just however you are, and you can relax into the feeling that there are no expectations on you or your baby. It’s so good to know that you will be with others going through their own version of this same journey.
The peer support networks we create in these times can be hugely helpful. Birthlight baby massage classes, and in fact, all our classes, are taught in a circle, where we learn together, and we share the joy and difficulties of parenting. This sharing creates friendships that spill out of the classes and can cement into peer support social circles. With 1 in 10 women in the UK now experiencing postnatal depression, we know that these classes and friendships are crucial for new mothers. They help us to avoid or mitigate feelings of isolation and loneliness, helping us to relax into the joyful moments, and to weather the difficult ones.
5. Baby massage encourages 'Spirals of Joy'
There is a wonderful event that happens when babies and their carers become well attuned, a magical mutually profound moment of joy. Perhaps it starts with the baby making a coo-ing noise. The parent then leans in close, makes eye contact and coos back with raised eyebrows, starting a conversation. Connecting into the parent's invitation, the baby smiles, coos and makes happy little leg movements for a moment, before becoming still again, waiting for the response. The parent cannot help but smile back, and so the spiral continues. These moments may be sweet, but they also serve an important function. We are tuning into a deep communication with our babies. We are raising our own and our babies' oxytocin levels (the wonderful hormone of bonding, love and trust), which both deepens our bond, and helps us to feel good. It's like nature's reward for the commitment of parenting. These oxytocin fuelled rushes of pleasure simultaneously help us to feel better, and to be closer to our little ones.
Perhaps the loveliest thing about Birthlight nurturing baby massage classes is that these spirals don't just affect one parent and baby. They spiral out into the classroom, into the wider families and out into the community. Have you ever smiled and felt a little taste of joy when you see a cute baby and parent interacting? Congratulations - you just got included in the spiral. It is amazing how much joy a close bond between a parent and child can bring to the world.
Birthlight Nurturing Baby Massage, Baby Yoga & Toddler Yoga Tutor
Birthlight is an UK based international non-for-profit organisation training teachers in practises from fertility through pregnancy, birth and through the early childhood years. You can find Birthlight trained teachers through the UK and around the world, find a class>
Birthlight Nurturing Baby Massage Teacher Training
This three-day intensive short course will give you a qualification in birthlight baby massage. You will also learn a wide range of practices for supporting new mothers and enhancing their interaction with babies aged 0-4 months.
Included are beautiful flowing birthlight baby massage sequences, mini baby yoga moves and early postnatal recovery for new mothers. We look at how to include fathers and other family members and how to create a warm and nurturing atmosphere where relaxed bonding and enjoyment can naturally occur. The course integrates theory with practice and where possible we invite visiting babies to our practical sessions.
The course is open to:
Health professionals (nursery nurses, health visitors)
Children centre’s staff (such as Sure Start Staff)
Qualified Birthlight teachers
Mothers, through the Mother’s route to Training, conditional to the reading of the anatomy and physiology of infants before attending the course.