Learning baby massage is lovely – the baby lies on the fluffy towel, you smother them in delicious sunflower or coconut oil, and lovingly massage their wee body as you stare into each others’ eyes. And then….the baby learns to move! With a mobile baby, everything becomes just that little bit more challenging and this includes baby massage. After all, why would anyone want to lie still when there were newly discovered moves to practise and places to explore.
So should you stop massaging your baby when they become a little bit wriggly? No! I promise it’s worth persevering. Here are some ideas to help you massage an older, mobile baby or a toddler….
1) Set the scene. Always use the same blanket or towel, perhaps start with the same song and of course our three permission steps. Baby will associate these cues with a lovely relaxing massage.
2) Pick your moment. Remember, we want to massage babies in quiet alert state (rather than active alert where songs and stories and games would be much better received). Drowsy babies struggle with massage too. Perhaps massage is best timed post nap, or during a mid afternoon lull – every baby is different. With older children, you might choose to massage whilst watching a film or listening to some music.
3) Be patient. If baby crawls away mid massage, wait patiently for them to return rather than pull them back. You could give yourself a nice hand massage whilst you wait!
4) Massage opportunistically. If you’re having a cuddle, massage any body parts you can access – or perhaps a quick leg massage whilst dressing baby could work well.
5) Use games, songs and stories. Older baby may enjoy more dialogue as you massage them. Story massage is when you ‘draw’ the story on your child’s back as you read – try ‘we’re going on a bear hunt’ or ‘the snail and the whale’.
6) Alter your positions for massage. A crawler may be reluctant to lie on their back but may sit up for a massage. Or perhaps they may enjoy lying on your legs rather than the floor.
7) Include massage in your bedtime routine and you’ll soon find that baby expects massage; demands massage even!
8) Bring in older siblings. Babies learn so much through imitation and they love copying their siblings. If you start massaging older sibling, often the baby will naturally want to join in. You can also teach your older child some simple strokes to massage their new baby too.
Massage is just the most amazing tool and it really is worth continuing to practise and adapt your techniques as your baby grows. You can use your skills in all manner of situations from the dentist’s chair to long train journeys; from mornings with a poorly baby to bedtimes with an over-tired toddler.