Baby massage, also known as infant massage, is suitable from birth until your baby can crawl, at which point they may become resistant to a structured class setting. Many massage instructors set a lower age limit of 6 weeks for their classes, which coincides with certain physical milestones and the six-week post-natal check for new mums.
What your child will do
Like adult massage, the main aim is to induce a calm state. Your baby will not be required to do anything more than to lie back and relax. Baby massage instructors are hands-off and demonstrate techniques with the aid of a teaching doll, so you'll be the only one expected to perform the massage strokes on your baby.
Instructors will be fully aware of and sympathetic to your baby’s needs (feeding, changing, being unsettled) and that sometimes your baby just won't be in the mood. Massage techniques that you could learn include sequences for the legs, chest, tummy, arms, hands, face, back and ears. Some classes include a relaxation experience for mums to enjoy as well as time for free play at the end of the teaching section.
Courses are usually taught over a number of weeks with each class introducing a new body part to focus on. This allows both baby and parent to become familiar with the massage routines being taught as they are re-capped, building up to a full body massage by the end of the course.
How will your baby benefit
Massage can help you develop your relationship with your baby. By touching him in this gentle, affectionate way, it can help him to feel secure and well attached to you. Recent research has shown that massage may be effective in reducing crying and relieving the uncomfortable symptoms of colic and teething. It can also aid your baby’s sleep patterns by helping to soothe and relax him and it can work particularly well as part of a bedtime routine.
Regular massage can boost your baby’s immune system and promotes flexibility. The massage strokes can also help to strengthen and regulate your baby’s digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems relieving discomfort and pain. It can also aid neurological development by building ‘pathways’ in the brain as it teaches your baby to become aware of his body.
Baby massage classes offer a relaxing way to bond with your baby, without distraction, through touch and eye contact. Asking permission to massage and watching for verbal and non-verbal cues for emotional states such as happiness, tiredness and over-stimulation can develop your awareness of your baby’s needs.
Classes can be great outlets for new parents to socialise in and will often include discussion time at the end on topics that may benefit from massage including sleep, crying and feeding.
The cost varies from approximately £5-£10 per class, depending on your location. Check with your health visitor or local Children’s Centre on the availability of free classes in your area. Some instructors will include baby safe massage oil and printouts of massage routines as part of the cost of the classes.