How to Bond with Your Baby Through Massage

baby massage

A Guest Post by JOHNSON’s

Did you know that a baby’s first sensory stimulation in life comes from touch while in the womb. By three years of age, 85% of baby’s brain is formed. Research suggests that during the early stages of baby’s development sensorial stimulation can be critical to baby’s healthy, happy development.

As a pioneer of research on baby skin, JOHNSON’s is now exploring the role of multi-sensorial experiences and how these little moments everyday can become so much more!

Alice Campbell, a touch expert from the International Association of Infant Massage shares her top tips for connecting with your little one through massage;

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Start with your baby in mind

Most of the benefits of infant massage come from the interaction between you and your baby, so there’s no need to worry about getting the strokes “exactly” right. Instead, focus on the idea that your baby is a person too: with their own likes and preferences. If you have ever had a massage, you’ll know that there are things you like and some things you don’t: your baby is no different in this regard. You can experiment with different pressure and speed, and see what your baby likes. Use massage as an opportunity to get to know your baby, rather than as another job you need to “get right” and tick off the list.

Think of your baby’s environment

Any type of interaction is hard work for a baby: they use an enormous amount of brain activity to play, move and take in all of the things happening around them. By reducing things like overhead lighting and too many external noises, you give your baby the best chance at being able to concentrate on enjoying the time with you.

Watch your baby’s cues

All babies use body language cues to communicate how they are feeling. For example, some babies have rapid jerky movements and have difficulty holding eye contact when they are feeling overstimulated. Smooth movements and lots of eye contact sometimes signal they are ready for interaction.

Babies often respond best to massage when they are in a relaxed state: so look for body language that seems to signal they are calm. Some babies – especially if they are very young or sensitive – may only enjoy massage for brief periods (tolerating massage for less than a minute is normal for many newborns). It’s OK to stop part-way through a massage if your baby signals they have had enough.

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Offer eye contact

Offer your baby as much eye contact as you feel comfortable with. Don’t worry if they can’t hold eye contact for a long time: it is hard work for babies and they will build up over time. If your baby is unable to hold any eye contact at all, you can try using just still touch or skin-to-skin contact and see how they respond.

Sing

Singing is a wonderful way to build on the benefits of massage, and studies show that babies prefer the sound of their own parent’s voice (no matter how out of tune!) to generic music on a CD. If you are uncomfortable singing, don’t worry. Instead, just talk with your baby through the massage using a slightly higher pitched voice and slightly longer vowels.

Find the right oil and scents for you & your baby

Using an oil or a cream for massage helps reduce friction on the skin and makes touch more pleasant for your baby. It’s a good idea to use the same product for massage each time so that your baby begins to associate it with the pleasant experience of interacting with you. There are a wide range of suitable choices: whichever you choose, we do advise caution with olive oil, sesame oil and jojoba which are not always ideal for baby’s delicate and sensitive skin.

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Attend a high-quality baby massage class

Touch and interaction might be “natural” – but just like breastfeeding, learning to use massage doesn’t always come easily to every new parent. Things like postnatal depression, traumatic birth or extended hospitalization, having a particularly sensitive or unsettled baby, or simply feeling a bit overwhelmed can all impact on how confident parents feel to use touch with their baby.

A good quality infant massage course, run by a properly-trained facilitator, is a worthwhile investment: you’ll receive lots of one-on-one support to help understand your baby’s individual preferences, no matter what your circumstances. You’ll have the chance to learn and adapt the massage strokes to suit the individual needs of your baby.

Beyond massage, you’ll also be shown how to use other types of gentle touch, movement, voice and eye contact with your baby. Research suggests that the safest and most effective infant massage courses run for a minimum of five sessions, and are facilitated by someone with accredited training in cue-based infant massage education.

Visit www.iaim.org.au to find out more.

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Johnson’s Baby Oil $5.49 (200ml)

When used in a gentle massage, our baby oil creates a light protective barrier that locks in moisture and gently cleanses your baby’s delicate skin

It’s pure, mild, and gentle, and when used as part of a loving massage it helps you grow your special bond.

{Images supplied by Johnson’s}

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