When mothers massage their babies, the massage assists the bonding process and helps establish a warm and positive parent-child relationship.

The instinctive reaction to any physical trauma is to rub the sore spot. This indicates that massage was one of the first healing techniques used by humans. Throughout the centuries many different types of massage have been developed in response to the manifold aspects of well-being they bring.

As massage played such an important role in the care of adult bodies, so too was it extensively used to develop happy, healthy infants. The aristocrats of early Rome employed Greek slave girls as wet nurses for their babies. These slaves were often well-educated with a strong understanding of the benefits of massage in promoting tranquility in the babies under their care. Caring for babies by massage has been sustained for centuries.

Massage is communication at the deepest level, without the limitation of words. Fluid flow through the body is increased by massage. The improved blood flow benefits the nutrition and detoxification of the body's systems, while improved lymphatic flow enhances the efficiency of the immune system.

In babies, strong healthy growth is supported by the movement of fluids which provide nutrition to all cells and also assist the baby's excretory system. Massage is valuable in stimulating the sensory receptors in the skin and the layers below it. These stimulations increase the efficiency of the baby's nervous system.

Beyond all physical benefits of massage are the tremendous waves of emotional and caring "oneness" which come from this loving contact.

baby massage

When a baby is born, it comes from the dark, encapsulated security of the womb, in which it was gently rocked by warm amniotic fluid and lulled by the rhythmic beat of its mother's heart. Now the baby is confronted by bright light and a confusing melee of sensations. The known sounds of its mother's voice and her touch assist the newly born baby to feel secure and wanted.

Life in the womb is by no means silent and is sometimes even described as "noisy". Movements of the organs surrounding the womb are sonorous so the fetus is aware of sound from its early months. Pregnant women often play music to their unborn child, which depending on the type of music seems to have a calming effect on the fetus.

At birth, the most developed of our senses are touch, hearing, and smell and the skin is the strongest organ of touch. Within seconds babies can identify the scent of their own mother. Once breathing is established, gentle, confident touch, known voices, and pleasant smells will assist the baby to relax and be ready to suckle. Infant studies have shown that touch, movement, and sound stimulate the nerve pathways, speeding neurological growth. Weight gain is faster and cellular activity is increased along with improved endocrine functioning.

For massage to be beneficial for the baby, it does not have to begin and end with massaging the baby during its first year after birth.

In this book, we look at massage for the mother during pregnancy and childbirth — of great benefit for both mother and baby — and the post-natal period; as well as massage for the newborn and older baby and through the child's early years.

Thus, massage can become a part of life - from pregnancy to birth, through the growing years, to parenthood of the next generation.

Birthing customs from around the world

There is great difference in attitudes to bird in various HOC then. In all societies, there are those who assist at the actual birth Thong may vary from a family member friend, or midwife to a general practitioner or obstetrician

In the seventeenth century a few accoucheurs (male midwives) began to assist in the delivery of babies however, midwifery was carried out predominantly by women. Gradually midwives became more accepted as practitioners in their own right but were subordinate to doctors. Before 1880, most births were attended by female relatives, with a doctor called in at the last moment, if labor became difficult. From 1880-1920 many babies were born at home. After 1930 the medical profession exerted increased authority over the birth process and birds more and more became medical events occurring in hospital Though midwives increased in number and were giver greater training most modern midwives are attached to hospitals or community centers

In the past fifty years, in modern Western societies, An increase in the number of successful births with improved baby health has been achieved. As women in the modern world became more educated and informed than their sisters of the past, they came to feel that the hospitalization of birth had unduly changed this normal, biological event into a medical one, in which the pregnant woman becomes a passive patient, to be instructed in what she is to do, or non to do. The trend now is for many women to be more "active" in the birth process.

Early in this century, the body was being compared with a machine -- the criticism leveled at some obstetricians is that they see the birth process only as one of plumbing, This narrow view does not include the complex emotional and psychological aspects of birth Birth is a time of momentous change and emotional fulfillment for the new parents. Today we are seeing birthing options that sanction the woman's wishes regarding all aspects of birthing, whether the baby is born at home, in a birth center, or in a hospital setting. As well, the male partner or other family members or in chosen Support person are likely to be present and helping with the birth

Views of birth in various parts of the world are often very different. In some cultures, the placenta is viewed as dangerous to males. To avoid contamination they stay away from the birth and often have no contact with the woman or the baby for the next month.

In many countries, a woman rarely gives birth lying on her back in bed. In southeast Asia. India. West Africa and in the Central Americas women stand, squat or sit, or recline against support, while giving birth, and the cord is not cut until after the placenta has been expelled. It is usual in these societies for the mother to have a period of rest and seclusion lasting from twenty to forty days following the birth of a child.

In areas where traditional birthing takes place. Traditional Birth Attendants" are the usual support persons. The term comes from the United Nations World Health Organization. WHO is actively working to increase the training of these people. Attitudes that allow women to keep their beliefs and mores intact, acknowledge the psychological and emotional aspects of childbirth, often overlooked or ignored in the past by the "hospitalized" approach to childbirth.

An approach that acknowledges the benefits of both modern medicine and traditional practices is developing in most Western countries. Modern lifestyle and clothing are not conducive to the way in which the baby is carried and cared for in the weeks after birth. In societies that still follow age-old traditions, the baby is constantly with the mother or a carer. A new mother's clothing is adapted to accommodate hen infant. In West Africa, In Indonesia, and some of the islands of the Pacific, babies are placed in Slings across their mothers' breasts. While in Indonesia the sling is a separate garment, some other indigenous women from a sling from their long skirts. There is much skin-to-skin contact and the baby has immediate access to its mother's breasts.

Many Western women have returned to "feeding on demand". Babies treated in this way are more likely to be happy and calm as crying to express discomfort or hunger is avoided. As indigenous mothers move about, babies supported close to their bodies in soft, pliant slings are constantly being massaged by the fabric and the movement of the mother's muscles. Compare this with the experience of most Western babies, who spend a considerable time lying in bassinets, cots, or prams. As well as carrying their babies most of their working day, indigenous women from India, Central America, Uganda, and Fiji, among other islands in the Pacific, have specific times for planned baby massage. The lubricant varies according to the season or the baby's state of health.

Children brought up to enjoy and respond to soothing massage have a wonderful start to life. Early massaging implants the notion of “rubbing it better" as a concept for treating trauma. This is a powerful alternative to the pill-popping habits of modern society.

Life's most wonderful and important experiences are intangible. Although baby massage has proven benefits for the infant and for those doing the massaging, its values are immeasurable. Overlying the scientifically established benefits of touch, baby massaging develops bonding between the baby and its parents.

Health and physical benefits of baby massage

Massage is a conscious touch. When a mother massages her newborn, infant, she is focused on the softness of her baby's skin;

she becomes aware of the baby's fragility and vulnerability, and of this vibrant new life reaching out to her.

baby massage

The baby was secure inside the womb. Once the baby arrives into the world, it misses this warmth and security: but then it feels the warmth of its mother's body, and bonding takes place. This is the time the baby needs its mother's closeness, her touch, and the whisper of loving words for reassurance. Interchange of the energy of love between mother and infant comes through the closeness of skin contact, touch, communication through eye contact, and the mother's voice.

But this happy scenario is not always the reality. When interviewed about their baby's birth, many mothers have stated that immediately after the birth they were so tired and overwhelmed by the hours of pain and effort, they didn't even want to see or hold the newborn child. Touch and simple massage can assist in overcoming these feelings.

Often when we touch something - even another human being - we are not consciously aware of the tactile sensation of what we are touching, Massage is a conscious touch. When a mother massages her newborn infant, she is focused on the softness of her baby's skin; she becomes aware of the baby's fragility and vulnerability, and of this vibrant new life reaching out to her. The joy and comfort these actions bring are a powerful means of conquering that terrible state of postnatal blues.

As an ongoing practice, baby massage encourages healthy growth and plays an important role in the physical and mental development of the baby. The baby's circulation and immune systems will improve; massage is also, a healing technique that affects the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels of the child.

Massage is not only beneficial for the baby, but also for the massage giver. It is a means of relief from stress and of generating bonding between parents, and parents and baby. Another benefit of massaging the baby is that it increases the massage giver's confidence in handling the baby.

A massage allows time for the parent and baby to become intimately acquainted and so assists

the bonding processes.

Preparation for baby's massage.

Baby massage

ln preparing to massage your baby consider the temperature and atmosphere of the room, the time of day, and the oils you wish to use.

Babies and small children respond to routine. The establishment of what will be the usual procedure helps develop feelings of security in the baby. Recognition of routines is the beginning of the baby's understanding of this strange, new world. The best time for baby massage is when the baby is neither tired nor hungry. Abdominal stroking should not be attempted too soon after a drink.

While massage is a message of warmth and love for the baby, beware of the child's responses becoming too demanding, As a survival mechanism, all young creatures are egocentric and occupied with their own needs and wants. Your bundle of joy can turn into a small tyrant if you allow too much control to transfer into your baby's hands. For instance, the constant rocking of a healthy baby may lead to an over-demand for this activity.

The needs of other members of the household must be considered if the environment is to be a secure, happy one. Other children in the household, especially toddlers, must not be ignored because of the new baby. Often small children are delighted to "help" with the massage - possibly stroking the baby's hands or feet. This will teach the older child the necessary gentleness of touch.

The shared joy of touch and response strengthens bonding within families. Sometimes partners feel they are being left out and ignored if the mother's interests seem to be all oriented towards the baby, involve your partner in massaging the baby too. They will love it and benefit from it and so will the baby,

The best time to massage your baby is between feeds, When the baby is neither hungry nor full.

Creating the environment

To ensure your baby gains maximum benefit from the massage, give thought to prepare the best environment: warm, quiet, and softly lit. Have your oils and other necessary items ready

Make sure the area you choose is draft free, warm and with soft light, natural if possible. If there is a phone, take it off the hook or switch on the answering machine. This special time should be just for you and your baby

Sit in a comfortable place, perhaps on a beanbag or a pile of cushions that you can lean into for support for your back. If you are going to massage your baby on the floor, Layout a padded mat or quilt. Have a towel under the baby in case of mishaps.

Some soft music playing in the background may help to create a calming atmosphere. Make sure there is no strong light, neither sunlight nor electricity, shining on your baby's face. When the baby is face up. use a shaded side lamp or soft natural light

Getting ready Make sure your fingernails are short and clean and all jewelry has been removed.

Have the baby's clothes and the oil at hand so you won't have to fetch items leaving the baby unattended. Unless you are breastfeeding, have a bottle prepared before the massage. Depending on the time of the massage, babies often like a feed straight after their massage.

The oils Use only cold-pressed vegetable oils or seed oils such as sweet almond, olive oil or even grapeseed oil. Avoid heavy oils such as peanut oil. Also avoid commercial baby oil, which is a mineral oil specifically developed as a barrier to urine and will not be absorbed by the skin. The mineral content is not helpful to the child's skin, whereas sweet almond oil has an emollient effect. Do not apply the oil directly to the baby's skin; rather, put a small quantity on your hands to warm it before applying it to the baby.

Remember your baby has only a tiny body, with a limited blood supply, so if the weather is at all chilly, warm the oil slightly by standing the container in a bowl of warm water and keep the room warm. A squeeze bottle that can be used with one hand, is the easiest way of dispensing oil. Remember to replace the lid after essential oils have been added. A small sauce bottle from the supermarket is perfect. However, later on, when you are using essential oils, avoid plastic containers, as some oils erode plastic. Essential oils are concentrated, so they are not recommended for direct use on the newborn. They may be used as room sprays for improving the quality of the air in the home.

See the chapter on aromatherapy for further information on the care of essential oils.

CAUTION - After an immunization session, your baby's temperature will be raised slightly. It is advised that you do not massage your baby for several days afterward.


Toddlers can present a problem as they may not always choose to be massaged when you think the time appropriate. If they are accustomed to frequent massages from their earliest days, however, most toddlers will seek touch. When they fall or hurt themselves, they will want to be "rubbed better." Adapt the sequence described in the chapter on baby massage for your toddler, but gradually increase the pressure until you are working firmly up the limbs and only using the lightest pressure when moving down the limbs, thus you will work correctly with the flow of fluids through the body. If your toddler is impatient to be off and about the serious business of exploring and growing, do parts of the body at a time.



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