In the Moment - - Wellbeing - Words: Karen Young

Touch is hugely im­por­tant to all new­borns. At this stage in life, it is the pri­mary way that we com­mu­ni­cate and con­nect with the world and those around us, and without it, we quite sim­ply fail to thrive and grow.

Mas­sag­ing ba­bies shortly af­ter they are born is an age-old tra­di­tion prac­tised in many coun­tries through­out the world, in­clud­ing In­dia and across the African con­ti­nent, yet it’s some­thing that was only for­mally in­tro­duced to the UK around three decades ago.

Since then, baby mas­sage has grown in pop­u­lar­ity with par­ents and other pri­mary care­givers, not least be­cause we are start­ing to ap­pre­ci­ate the many bene ts it has to o er. As well as be­ing an e ec­tive way to bond and com­mu­ni­cate with your baby, pos­i­tive touch through mas­sage helps to sup­port emo­tional and phys­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, and in­creases a par­ent’s con dence in han­dling and car­ing for their lit­tle ones.

“Baby mas­sage in­volves the par­ent car­ry­ing out a range of very gen­tle, rhyth­mi­cal move­ments on their baby, in­clud­ing hold­ing, stroking and stretch­ing,” ex­plains Julie McFad­den, FHT Regis­trar and baby mas­sage in­struc­tor. “It’s usu­ally taught in a small group set­ting, with the in­struc­tor demon­strat­ing the var­i­ous tech­niques on a spe­cial doll. The par­ent then re­peats th­ese move­ments on their own child, who lies on a soft, towel-cov­ered mat on the oor in front of them.”

In most cases, ba­bies wear just a nappy dur­ing the mas­sage, and a small amount of oil or cream is ap­plied to the skin – many in­struc­tors en­cour­age par­ents to bring a product that they know is suit­able for their baby’s skin.

Through this pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tion, par­ents will of­ten start to pick up on cer­tain ‘cues’ in their baby’s be­hav­iour, from turn­ing their head in a cer­tain way to show they don’t like some­thing, to learn­ing what di er­ent cries mean. Reg­u­lar mas­sage can also help par­ents be­come more fa­mil­iar with nu­ances in their baby’s skin, in­clud­ing tex­ture, colour and tem­per­a­ture.

Baby mas­sage is usu­ally o ered as a course of four to six weekly lessons, with each ses­sion last­ing around 45 min­utes to an hour. “In a class sit­u­a­tion, it’s not un­usual for a baby to fall asleep dur­ing a mas­sage rou­tine or to need a feed or nappy change,” ex­plains Julie. “It’s of­ten a case of sim­ply ‘go­ing with the ow’. At home, of course, mas­sage can be car­ried out at any time that ts in with your baby’s daily rou­tine.” The Fed­er­a­tion of Holis­tic Ther­a­pists ( is the UK and Ire­land’s lead­ing pro­fes­sional as­so­ci­a­tion for com­ple­men­tary, holis­tic beauty and sports ther­a­pists.

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