Baby massage

Because we’re first time parents and only have the one bundle of joy, we have subscribed heavily to the night time routine process, including a post-bath massage. I don’t remember ever having a massage as a kid myself (or even regular baths); not to say my folks didn’t do it when I was tiny but if they did, it ceased prior to me recording any memory of it (possibly about the time my brother came along – I’m not sure that you have time for massaging two Precious Snowflakes, let alone the four my parents eventually had). However, because we have no idea what we’re doing and They tell us a routine, including massage, is great for babies, we do it nightly.

My ‘massage’ technique is as follows:

  • Remove bubba from warm bath into cold night air. Take her, usually screaming, to her room and hastily dry her as she wriggles furiously.
  • Say calming things like ‘ooh time for your lovely massage’. This is usually through clenched teeth so is anything but calm and soothing. It may also be teaching my daughter an incorrect meaning of the words ‘lovely’ and ‘massage’.
  • Crack open massage oil (organic, of course, with sleep-inducing essential oils…that have yet to magically send my girl to sleep). Due to oily hands and clumsy nature, manage to spill oil all over change table. Curse loudly and then curse again under breath because no swearing in front of the baby.
  • Scrape up whatever overpriced oil is salvageable, and dump on already slippery and wriggly baby. Manage to get oil in her eye which increases the crying tenfold.
  • Randomly rub baby’s body in hasty and non-soothing manner. Vaguely name body parts as they are ‘massaged’ as an article once advised to do so (the same article that said to read the same book to the baby every. single. night. so they get used to the words quicker).
  • Slam on pyjamas and hope for the best.

On the plus side, the expensive organic oil smells divine and has perfumed the whole room. The downside, of course, is that neither of us are particularly soothed and the baby is surely onto the fact that I have no idea whatsoever about how to care for a small human. And that my knowledge of body parts is also slightly suspect (‘bottom leg’ is, on reflection, known as the calf).

Luckily, my mothers’ group organised a baby massage class to support our babies through such trials and tribulations. There’s a specialist mama and baby massage centre down the road – Damara Massage – and we organised a class for a bunch of us and our little ones.

(An aside: Damara’s website claims that ‘Babies are always welcome in the clinic as they sleep peacefully while mum gets her massage.’ I love the sentiment but I’m not sure why I wasted good money on a sleep consultant if all I needed to do was rock up for a massage.)

The things I learned?

  • The expensive scented oil? Ditch it. A major part of the experience is scent and you want your natural scent to power through, not the scent of sleep inducing lavender, however delightful you may find it. Ditch also the olive oil as the molecules are too large to be properly absorbed and simply make bubba slippery. The best oil to use is an organic, unscented natural oil such as almond, coconut, jojoba, sesame and the like. The instructor recommended New Directions to source oils.
  • Massage the baby when they are calm, well rested and not overstimulated. This is not usually just after a bath, as a bath is very stimulating and usually had at the end of the day when the baby is tired. A good time is earlier in the afternoon or just after they’ve woken from a nap.
  • Always massage bubba on the floor as opposed to a change table. They’re slippery and wriggly and an accident waiting to happen.
  • Massage is not only great for bonding but can help with constipation, coli and reflux.
  • Always ask bubba if you can massage them. Put your hands up to their face and ask if they’d like a massage. They will soon learn that you’re asking, and eventually will learn that they have control over their bodies and the right to say yes or no, and that massage is an intimate thing that only certain people should be allowed to do.
  • Start with their legs as these are used to being touched and only continue as long as the baby is feeling comfortable. The instructor gave us strokes to use on the legs, arms, abdomen, back and face. When you finish, let them know you’ve done so and give them a wee hug but don’t use the word ‘massage’; they should differentiate the start from the finish.

Of course, this is all in theory because once again, my girl slept through the whole thing.

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