My goal is to create happy babies through massage, but of course not all babies lie down and coo while you lovingly practice infant massage techniques. From teaching classes and teaching hundreds of parents and babies, it’s not uncommon for babies to howl in outrage at the first sign of massage, and the worst thing you can do is clench your teeth and carry on: you risk creating a negative association in their minds. So I have written this short article to help those moms with babies who don’t like being massaged.

So why bother? Surely if the baby doesn’t like it, just don’t do it. Well, of course it’s an option, but when you consider all the fantastic benefits of infant massage, some of the ideas discussed here are worth trying.

Tip #1 Set the scene

Think about the environment and your baby. Is it warm, calm, quiet? A sensitive baby undressing in a drafty church hall with six other babies when you’re used to quiet, peaceful days at home with just the two of you is likely to protest. Some babies love the social interaction of being with other babies and being in a new, simulated environment, and some don’t. Think about which baby you are and set the scene accordingly. Choose a smaller class, in a warmer environment, or get a DVD or download it and practice at home.

Tip #2 Dress (and undress) wisely

If you are going to a class or you are going to do the routine at home, dress your baby in loose and comfortable clothes. Sleep suits are ideal. Pulling and undressing a baby 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 encouragement to keep them happy and comfortable. A major problem with young babies is that they feel insecure when they’re naked (don’t they?!), so keep that in mind. Put a muslin or blanket over the parts of the body that are not being massaged. This keeps them from getting cold and increases their sense of security, so unless your baby likes to be naked at any opportunity (mine was and frankly still is), this is a good strategy.

Think about your own massages (you remember them, right? A long, long time ago…) and how you’re covered in towels and only the section being massaged is exposed. For newborns, it is very important to regulate the temperature, so I would recommend massaging at home during the first weeks. For the baby who adamantly refuses to be happily undressed, or the parent who wants to massage without getting involved with oil (while out and about, for example), massaging through clothing is lovely. A single layer is best and a gentle rub on the back and legs while standing up at the shoulder is very calming and relaxing. I imagine you do this naturally anyway, so you’re already practicing baby massage every day! If he’s not happy lying on the floor, sit with your back supported and let him lie on your knees, that way he can see you better too.

Tip #3 Timing is everything

The time of day you massage is important, but I can’t tell you what time is best for you. This is one of the most common questions I am asked, but it is very individual to each baby’s routine, but my advice is always this: Massage at your baby’s happiest moment. All babies have a good period of the day: some are mid-morning, some are mid-afternoon, and some are at bedtime. The common consensus has often been to make massage part of the bedtime routine and I would support that, but not if by the time the bath is over your baby is screaming with hunger and exhaustion. This is not the time to start massaging.

Nights can also often be a hectic time, with partners coming home and spanking the baby in a frenzy, or older siblings wanting their share of your attention, or people to feed (sometimes even yourself). , etc. So in some cases it seems crazy trying to fit ‘baby massage for 20 minutes’ into this moment where you’ve spent the entire morning sitting just the two of you watching Jeremy Kyle and eating hobnobs (just me then?). From feedback from my moms in classes, I’ve found that massaging in the morning leads to better quality daytime naps that day and improves sleep at night. Also, if you are massaging for colic, mid-morning is a calm and quiet time, and massage seems to have a positive effect on the time of nighttime cramps. So make positive associations and massage when you are both at your best.

Tip #4 Fit it around your schedule, not the other way around

Another point to make here is that you shouldn’t feel like you have to sit down and do a full 20-minute routine every day. I’m sure you have enough to worry about without feeling guilty about not getting a massage too! Try to include a full massage a couple of times a week, yes that’s great, but also be creative and include it in your routine and not the other way around. I’m passionate about massaging feet (as I’m a trained reflexologist), so I’d recommend massaging feet every day, and a good time to do this is during diaper changes (and there are plenty of them in the day) and when they’re having a little kick.

Tip #5 Be happy

If you have a baby who isn’t that interested in getting massaged, you may feel tense before you start, especially in a group situation. Your baby will pick this up through your body language and her 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 focus really hard and look at your hands instead of at them, they might get a little worried. Eye contact, smiling, and singing silly songs help!

I hope the above helps if you have a baby who is not that interested in getting massaged. You may also find that as time goes on, different moves are preferred and rejected, so it’s important to try again in a few weeks and see if things have changed. Enjoy your baby!

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