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Tips For Massaging Babies Who Don’t Like Being Massaged
My goal is to create Happy Babies through massage but of course not all babies lie there cooing while you lovingly perform baby massage techniques on them. From running classes and teaching hundreds of parents and babies it’s not uncommon for babies to cry in agony at the first sign of contentment, and the worst thing you can do is to do is to grind your teeth and hold on – there is a risk of creating friction. negative association in their minds. So I have written this short article to help those mothers with babies who do not like to be massaged.
So why bother? Surely if the child doesn’t like it, you won’t do it? Well of course that’s a choice but when you think about the wonderful benefits of infant massage it’s worth trying some of the ideas discussed here.
Tip #1 Set the scene
Think about the environment and your baby. Is it warm, calm, quiet? A sensitive baby is likely to be dressed in a magical church hall with six other babies when they are used to quiet, peaceful days at home just the two of you, complaining. Some babies love the social interaction of being with other babies, and being in a new, simulated environment, and some don’t. Think about who your child is and set the scene accordingly. Choose a smaller class, in a warmer environment, or get a DVD or download and practice at home.
Tip #2 Dress (and undress) wisely
If you are going to class, or doing the usual at home, dress your baby in loose, comfortable clothes. Pajamas are ideal. Putting on and taking off baby clothes can be a bit stressful for them so make things as easy as possible for both of you. Undress them slowly and gently, with lots of positive stimulation until they feel happy and comfortable. A major problem with small babies is that they feel insecure when they are naked (don’t we all?!) so remember this. Place a muslin or blanket over the parts of the body that are not damaged. This prevents them from getting cold and increases their sense of security, so if your baby isn’t one who likes to be naked at any opportunity (I was, and still really am) it’s too -this is a good idea.
Think about your own massages (do you remember them right? A long, long time ago…) and how you’re wrapped in towels and only the part you’re getting a massage on is is open. For newborns, temperature regulation is very important so I would recommend doing a massage at home for the first few weeks. For the child who points blank refuses to be dressed happily, or the parent who wants to massage without getting involved in oil (while outside as example) it is good to rub through the clothes. A single layer is better and a gentle effleurage on the back and legs while getting help directly to the shoulder is very gentle and relaxing – I think you do this naturally anyway and so you already use baby massage every day! If they are not happy lying flat on the floor sit with your back supported and let them lie on your knees, so they can see you better too.
Tip #3 Timing is everything
The time of day you touch is important, but I can’t tell you the best time for you. This is one of the most common questions I get asked but it is so individual to each baby’s routine but my advice is always this: Massage at your baby’s happiest time. All babies have a good time of day – some mid-morning, some mid-afternoon and some around bedtime. The common consensus is often to make a massage part of the bedtime routine and I would support that, but not if your baby is screaming and hungry before have the bath ready. That is not the time to start a massage.
Nights can be a manic time too, with partners coming home and rocking a baby into a frenzy, or older siblings demanding their share of your attention, or people to feed them (sometimes even yourself ) and so on. So in some cases it seems crazy to try to fit ‘massage the baby for 20 mins’ into this time when you’ve spent all morning just the two of you sitting ‘ watching Jeremy Kyle and eating hobnobs (just me then?). I have found out from the feedback from my mothers at classes that massage in the morning leads to naps during the day of better quality that day and better sleep that evening. Also if you’re suffering from colic, mid-morning is a relaxing, quiet time and a massage then seems to have a positive effect on that nighttime cough. So make positive connections and massage when you are both at your best.
Tip #4 Apply it to your schedule, not the other way around
Another point I should make here is that you shouldn’t feel like you have to sit down and do a full 20 minute practice every day – I’m sure you have plenty to worry about don’t feel guilty that you didn’t have a massage too! Try to fit in a full massage twice a week, yes that’s great, but also be creative, and fit it into your routine not the other way around. I am passionate about massaging the feet (as I am a trained reflexologist) so I would recommend massaging the feet every day, and a good time to do this is when me changing bells (and there are plenty of those in a day) and when they are getting a little knocked around.
Tip #5 Be happy
If you have a baby who doesn’t like being massaged, it can be easy to feel tense before you start, especially in a group setting. Your baby will pick up on this through your body language and their own sixth sense! Stretch, get comfortable and relax before you start. Make sure you have everything on hand (oil, wipes, towel). keep eye contact and smile! If you are concentrating hard and looking at your hands rather than at them, they can be a little nervous. Eye contact, smiling and singing silly songs all help!
I hope the above helps if you have a baby who doesn’t like to be massaged. You may also find as time goes on that different movements are better and you don’t like them so it’s important to try again in a few weeks to see if things have changed. Enjoy your child!
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