Though a fairly new phenomenon in the West, parents all over India have been massaging their babies for decades as part of their daily routine, and more recently, studies in the West have shown the obvious benefits this nurturing exercise can bring. Certified with the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), instructor Helen Gillespie from Infinity Clinic explains:
What is taught in a baby massage class?
The instructor guides you through the massage process, starting with the legs and feet and finishing with a whole body massage. Parents are also taught to recognise their baby’s body language, helping them meet the child’s specific needs: for example, knowing when bub is over-stimulated. The techniques used are varied, according to different body parts: for example, Swedish massage (circles around the ankle) and Indian milking on the legs and feet. These are taught in a logical step-by-step fashion, but parents can adapt these according to their baby’s needs.
What are the benefits to baby?
Today, babies are less frequently in their mum’s arms, missing out on the important tactile stimulation that being held brings. Infant massage is the ideal way to reconnect with your baby, making them feel more secure. The sensory stimulation of a massage can boost the immune system, help with digestion and improve circulation, and done daily, it can help reduce stress levels, so they cry less and are more easily soothed, inducing sleep. It can also provide some relief with wind and colic. After assessing nine studies of baby massage (600 babies below six months), a recent review by Warwick Medical School and the Institute of Education at the University of Warwick, revealed that infants who were massaged cried less, slept better, and had lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. Overall, the stimulation of the skin allows baby to relax, making them calmer and happier.
What are the benefits to mum?
Mums can get bogged down with the mundane tasks of babyhood and infant massage is a fabulous way to enjoy connecting with your baby. It can enhance and strengthen the bonding process and is especially good for those parents who, for whatever reason, have experienced delayed bonding. They can reconnect with their baby and reestablish trust through loving touch. This is especially important for babies who’ve been in NICU. Mums can get a sense of deeper attachment, and by seeing their baby relax, this can have a positive effect on mothers as they too relax and de-stress. Studies have shown infant massage to be beneficial to mothers with symptoms of post-natal depression. The connection between mum and bub during massage helps build self-esteem for both, and because massage stimulates the production of oxytocin in the body, it also has a calming effect.
What oils are recommended?
Oil is an important part of the massage and there are many on the market. IAIM recommends organic cold-pressed vegetable oils, but any oil should be chemical- and perfume-free, so it doesn’t detract from the mum’s and bub’s own natural fragrances. It shouldn’t leave the skin slippery and should be easily absorbed into the skin. Avoid mineral oils, which aren’t easily absorbed and are often heavily perfumed.
What should you consider when doing this at home?
A class teaches the basic techniques which mums can continue on a daily basis at home. I also encourage mums to teach dads, so they too can enjoy the bonding experience. Ensure your baby is in a quiet but alert state (don’t start when they’re hungry, have just woken, or are about to fall asleep), that you’re in a warm environment, and play soft background music. Initially, babies will tolerate only a few minutes of massage, but this will gradually increase as they relax. The Infant Massage course at Infinity is run by certified IAIM instructor Helen Gillespie, with around six mums and bubs. Suitable for babies from six weeks, the next course starts on Tues Jan 18 and runs every Tuesday (3-4pm) for four weeks. Dhs600, Infinity Clinic (04 394 8994).
‘I had my first taste of baby massage in the very capable hands of Helen Gillespie at Infinity. It’s a wonderful way of having some quiet, relaxing time with my baby. Helen took us through the various massage techniques, explaining the benefits, including bonding, relaxing and helping to soothe colic. This is my third child and it’s lovely to try something new. I found baby massage interesting, calming and fun, as well as a great way to spend some peaceful one-on-one quality time with my daughter.’
Jessica St. George and baby Olivia
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Akin Pure Baby Comforting Massage Oil
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Tiddley Pom Organic Massage Oil
A fragrance-free synergy of kukui, coconut, blackcurrant and argan organic oils, this comes in a convenient spray and restores natural moisture levels, leaving baby’s skin silky smooth.
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Bloom and Blossom Mother and Baby Oil
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