Touch is essential to our health and wellbeing. The nurturing touch of massage is something that can not only be enjoyed by your baby but through all the stages of your child’s life.
It may be hard to believe but research shows that infants have been known to fail to thrive and adults can become depressed and feel isolated if they are deprived of human touch. It is generally never too early to start massaging your baby and it is certainly never too late to introduce massage to your child.
Parents will often stop massaging their infant once they start to become mobile. The parent may feel that the baby is not longer interested or it becomes too difficult as the infant will no longer just lie still. Sometimes the parent feels that massage is no longer necessary especially if massage had initially been introduced because their baby suffered colic or had difficulty sleeping and these problems have been resolved. A parents positive touch is always essential and it is just a matter of becoming a little more flexible and adaptive.
Once your baby begins to crawl make the massage more fun and playful. Offer toys to hold, sing songs and rhymes and be flexible with your sequence. As your baby grows into a toddler they begin to develop more autonomy and “no” becomes a commonly used word. This is okay, it’s good to have one area in their life they can say ‘no’ to. If they are saying no to massage this needs to be respected. Don’t be discouraged – instead offer shorter more opportunistic massage rather than trying to get them to lie down for a full sequence.
Your preschool age child will often be happy to sit or lie still for massage. All the strokes that were used on your baby can be adapted to their growing limbs and body. This is a lovely age to introduce storytelling into your massage and encouraging lots of interaction. If a new sibling has arrived it is an ideal time to get them to help massage their baby brother or sister (under supervision). This provides a beautiful connection between siblings.
Music and storytelling can be used with massaging a school age child. Massage is also a perfect time to encourage your child to open up about any fears or worries. Often as they relax and feel safe and comfortable they will begin to talk.
Older Children & Teenage Years
As hard as it may seem your baby will one day blossom into a teenager and despite what they may indicate, your child still needs you. The positive touch of massage conveys a sense of security and trust. Find opportunities to have contact with your child – a shoulder rub or a foot or head massage. If it is done with respect and love they will respond positively and sometimes it will give them that opening to share with you any concerns or stresses they may have. TIP: Massage with your teen facing away from you
So while baby massage is a skill that you will gain benefit from in you child’s infancy, if you make it part of what you do and it becomes a natural part of your families routine, it will continue to have a positive influence in your life for many years to come.
A little something for thought…many adults who were massaged babies and children are now opening up to share that they loved this one on one time with their parent…bonding and building relationships is important throughout our lives and adds greater value than we can ever imagine.