By Lucy and Rebecca from For Baby & Me
After teaching baby massage for a combined 10 years, we have seen for ourselves just how much parents gain from doing one of our courses. Sometimes baby massage gets dismissed as just another baby activity, but we believe it is so much more than that. So for the 10 years we have been teaching, here are 10 things parents get from doing a baby massage course.
- Time with your baby
A mum once said in class that baby massage was the first time that she had really seen her baby. I mean, obviously she had seen her baby but she hadn’t really looked at him. Not in his gorgeous naked state. There is something profound about spending time with your baby looking at how he responds to your touch. How she meets your gaze or how he smiles back at you when you ask him if he’d like a massage. How she visibly relaxes when you take her nappy off and swish that oil. Life with a new baby can be hectic, emotionally turbulent and sleep deprived but massage gives us an opportunity to be present with our babies in a way that isn’t purely functional.
- A moment of quiet in your week
People frequently leave our classes saying how much more relaxed they feel. After five weeks many say they want to do the course again as it’s their bit of tranquillity in the whirlwind of baby classes and coffee mornings. Often classes can be very quiet when parents are massaging. There is chat, for sure, especially once the cake gets passed around, but often, during massage there is an amazing, peaceful quiet. As the instructors, we will look around and see parents staring lovingly at their babies. (Have we said yet that we have the best job in the world?!)
- Skills to calm and soothe your baby
Often parents come to classes keen to know how they can massage their babies’ tummies to relieve discomfort from wind and then discover that massage offers them so much more. When their baby feeds and then sleeps peacefully afterward, they see first-hand how much more relaxed their babies become after a massage and how easily they transition into a calm, sleepy state, bypassing the fussy and crying behaviours that frequently precede sleep.
- A chance to get to know your baby
Not all babies enjoy all the massage, all the time! As adults we know that we have favourite massages and babies are just the same. Part of the process is working out what your baby likes and what they don’t. Plus, not all babies want a massage when we want to give them one. This is just one of the ways that babies are telling us they are individuals with their own personalities and likes and dislikes. Learning when a baby is saying “yes please” or “no thank you” is a vital skill and one that parents will gain when they watch their baby’s cues closely.
- Cake, hot cups of tea and more cake
So many parents tell us that the cup of tea they get in massage is often the only hot one of the week. And a piece of cake is obligatory! Particularly as parents often won’t have had the time to grab breakfast. But actually what happens when we offer a new parent a cup of tea and cake is we are sending out a message that they are important too. This is not just about their babies’ needs but about their own needs, after all, new parents need nurturing too. And that’s why we will insist you do take that second flapjack…
- Time to breathe, stretch and unwind
In classes we will run through a very simple routine to stretch and unwind. When we give a massage it is so important we feel relaxed and calm, knowing that adrenaline is infectious. If we imagine being in a spa, we would want the massage therapist to be focused on us, not exuding stress or checking the time. That little moment for parents that allows them to calm their minds and stretch out their bodies is a vital part of massage. And it may well be the only time in the week that a parent manages to do this.
- Songs and rhymes
Throughout the course we weave songs and rhymes to ensure babies hear their parents’ voices. The combination of nurturing touch and the parent’s voice combine to flood the baby with endorphins. This is so vital in the bonding process and is the perfect way to engage a baby, even newborns who adore sing song voices. But did you also know that singing is beneficial to parents too? In fact, when we sing we increase the oxygen levels in our bodies as well as reduce stress levels, pain and discomfort. In classes we sing together and this creates a positive energy and a happy mood that we think is infectious.
- More sleep!
Parents will often report how their babies sleep well after massage class. This is because babies are flooded by feel-good hormones from massage; oxytocin, the hormone of love, and endorphins, our body’s natural pain-relieving hormones, and cortisol levels are also reduced. When our babies feel good, are happy and relaxed, parents also feel happier and a virtuous circle is created. What’s not to like?
- A lifelong skill
Massage doesn’t stop when babies stop being babies. In fact, if parents are in the habit of massaging this skill can last for many years. Indeed it becomes invaluable when parents go to work and want a way to reconnect with their children when they return; when children go through bouts of poor sleep or experience stress in their lives. And massage creates intimate moments for older children to talk about how they are feeling. And the benefits don’t stop for parents either. Studies point to reduced stress levels in parents who massage their children. Reason enough to carry on massaging as long as you are both enjoying it.
- Supportive friends
It can be hard to make new friends when we become parents. We don’t all live in tight-knit communities or know our neighbours. And turning up to a new baby group can be daunting. With much written about social isolation and the need to protect our mental wellbeing, new parents need opportunities to get out and socialise with others. The benefits of doing a baby massage course that runs for five consecutive weeks means that most people will be coming to the class without knowing anyone else and the group has space and time to form and for friendships to blossom. Hey presto! A supportive postnatal group!
Rebecca and Lucy met when they were both pregnant with their first babies and, a few years and four babies later, set up For Baby & Me. They both trained with the IAIM and are certified infant massage instructors running baby massage courses across West London. To find out more please visit www.forbabyandme.net or find them on facebook by searching For Baby & Me London.