Baby Massage: Preparing for Massage
For a full body massage you will need 30 minutes of uninterrupted time.
Your baby needs to be ‘quiet alert’. This means they are not hungry, nor too full from a recent feed, not too alert or irritable and not so tired they really need to go straight to sleep.
In the early months your baby may only have one or two ‘windows of opportunity’ for massage in a day for you to choose from but as they grow these may become more frequent. Often once your baby has become familiar with the massage experience they will become ‘available’ more readily too.
There are also shorter massage approaches you may wish to consider if time or timing is limited.
Setting Up for Full Body Massage
- Find a space on the floor in a warmed room (you will feel very warm in one layer of clothing for your baby to feel comfortable naked).
- Place a rug on the floor for you and your baby and ensure you have firm support to lean back on in a sitting position (eg wall or sofa). On top of the rug, for your baby, place a changing mat or yoga mat and cover with a towel. Have a spare towel or blanket available to wrap baby in if necessary. You may also need a nappy, wipes and tissues on hand for any surprise spills. Also ensure you have the oil or lotion you are going to use for the massage ready to hand.
- Turn the ring on your phone off and let the answer-phone take any messages.
- Make sure you are dressed in comfortable light clothing and avoid having long nails or wearing any jewelry that could graze your baby’s skin while massaging.
- Put on some soothing music that you and your baby might both enjoy. Something that flows at the pace you want for the massage. Not too loud. You want to be able to hear each other too.
- You may want to give your baby a deep warm bath before commencing massage. This may enhance relaxation – particularly helpful if it’s before the night time sleep.
- When you settle your baby on the massage surface you have created for them, sit with your legs either side and draw them in close. This will help them feel secure and assist eye contact.
- Ask your baby if they would like a massage. Let them see you open the bottle of oil or lotion, adding a small amount to the palm of your hands and warming it ready for massage. These are all cues to let them know what is coming. Including your baby in the preparation for massage helps build trust and partnership and also makes it easier at subsequent massage times for them to be ready and looking forward to what is coming.
Setting Up for a Shorter Massage
- Adapt the above.
- Always use a safe surface.
- Always ensure your baby is warm and always ask permission.
- There are some techniques (eg circles on the spot either side of spine) that can be employed through clothes or you can just massage face and hands or undress the lower half and massage legs and feet.
At time of nappy change you can massage the abdomen if you are wanting to minimise the discomfit of colic or constipation.
Contributed by Anne White
Nurse, Massage Therapist and IAIM trained Infant Massage Instructor