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All Hands on Deck
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All Hands on Deck
July 16, 2018
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July 16, 2018
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The simplest touch for a newborn baby has a profound effect on the growth of their body and their mind. It is why massage is such a positive practice and not just for little ones, but their parents too. We asked energy and mindset coach and baby massage instructor, Penelope Blissenden, how to communicate with your baby via massage – and why it is a crucial channel to keep open as your child begins to grow.

When should you massage your baby?

In the ‘quiet alert’ state, when they are not hungry, tired, asleep or have too many jerky movements. Do it as part of the evening routine, after their bath, to help them to relax and encourage deep, restful sleep. However, young babies may get over-stimulated, so they might prefer being massaged in the morning. I always encourage mums to try different times to discover what works best.

How do you massage them?

Always ask permission and have a clear beginning and end so your baby feels secure. Use lots of eye contact and songs to help create a loving, relaxed environment. The legs are the least sensitive so they’re a good place to start; then move onto the tummy, the chest, arms and hands, head and face and then finish with the back.

And up until what age?

Massage is effective for any child at any age – the key is to make it relevant and enjoyable. I have massaged my daughter from birth and she is now nearly eight. I have focused on different areas of her body, depending on what challenges she has been facing. Now she asks for massages to get to sleep, for growing pains or when she is feeling anxious.

What are the benefits?

In babies it improves circulation and increases the effectiveness of their immune system. It creates a secure attachment to their parent, which allows them to establish secure relationships in the future. It increases relaxation and healing through the release of oxytocin. It can help relieve the symptoms of teething, wind and colic and helps them to have a positive relationship with their bodies. For parents, it means they respond more confidently to their baby and improves communication.

Why does it work as children get older?

It provides one-on-one time with their parents without distraction. And for the care-giver, it offsets the never-ending ‘mum-guilt’ as we spend meaningful, quality time together. I work with many parents who are overwhelmed by the process of settling their children into nursery or school. I find through massage, they are releasing oxytocin to help relieve stress and re-establish the bond the child (or parent) may fear they are losing.

How is best to massage an older child?

A leg massage is very effective to alleviate growing pains. If getting to sleep is an issue, back strokes induce deep relaxation and release tension. Chest strokes are great teamed with a decongestant for a cough, a face massage helps clear sinuses and for anxiety or fear, and a hand massage can help to relax and distract your child.

How often should you massage your little one?

You cannot over-massage your baby. A hand massage is such an easy, accessible way to provide support. Every day has the best effect, as it means that you are topping up the oxytocin.

What impact have you seen?

In my six years as a baby massage instructor I have witnessed so many parents connecting with their babies. In my own life, I witnessed it firsthand as my daughter suffered with severe colic. I found it effective during the teething process, in settling into a difficult school transition and now getting to sleep.

(www.penelopeblissenden.com)

Claire Brayford
@clairebrayford
Lifestyle journalist/copywriter. Former Vogue Australia Harper's BAZAAR Australia contributor
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