Rubbing Your Baby the Right Way - Woodmam

Beautiful, big-eyed Mica was so sensitive and vigilant that she often had difficulty shutting out the world, even when she was exhausted. When Mica was one month old, I recommended that her parents, Lori and Michael, try using massage to help their daughter wind down:

At first Mica seemed leery of this type of touching. She accepted some foot massage, but that was as far as I could get before she became unhappy. I stuck with it, though, and after a week, Mica began to enjoy the touching. She even became excited when she heard me rub massage oil into my hands. I was delighted! Massage time soon became our special bonding time. Mica would deeply relax and sometimes fall asleep. I loved doing this for our daughter. And best of all, it helped her become calmer in general and to get over her evening fussies.

Lori, Michael, and Mica

Here are the five steps for giving your baby a perfect massage:

1. Prepare for pleasure—About an hour after your baby has eaten, remove your jewelry, warm the room, dim the lights, take the phone off the hook and, if you like, you may turn on some soft music. Have some slightly heated vegetable oil (almond oil is great) within easy reach, and some wipes and diapers too, just in case.

2. Bring yourself to the moment—Sit comfortably with your naked baby right next to you or on your bare, outstretched legs. Place a towel around her body to keep her warm. Now take five slow, deep breaths to allow yourself to be fully present for this wonderful experience. Massage is not a mechanical routine, it’s an exchange of love in one fleeting and tender moment of time.

The first few times you massage your baby, you may notice that you’re “in your head,” thinking about how to do the massage. Don’t worry: Once you become more familiar with the routine, your attention will naturally begin to focus on your fingertips, your baby’s soft skin, and your loving heart.

3. Speak to your baby with your hands—Rub some oil between your hands and start by touching your baby’s feet. Always try to keep one hand in contact with her skin and softly talk to her about what you are doing and what your hopes are for her life to come or sing a lullaby. Uncover one limb at a time and massage it with a touch that is fluid but firm. Let your massage strokes move slowly along her body, in synchronicity with your calm breathing.

Use smooth, repetitious strokes over her feet, legs, stomach, chest, arms, hands, back, face, and ears, gently rotating, pulling, stretching, and squeezing. Twist her arms and legs as if you were lightly wringing a wet sponge. Feel free to experiment with using your fingers and different parts of your hands, wrists, and forearms.

4. Reward your baby’s tummy—Thank your baby’s tummy for doing such a good job. Bicycle her legs and then firmly push both knees to the belly and hold them there for ten to twenty seconds to give a nice, satisfying stretch. Then massage the tummy in firm, clockwise, circular strokes, starting at her right lower belly, up and across the top of her tummy, and ending at the lower left side. (This sometimes helps babies release gas or poop.)

5. Follow your baby’s signals—If your baby begins to get restless, it’s a sign to change your pace or end the massage. Wipe the excess oil from her body, letting a bit remain to nourish her skin. Bathe her with soap and warm water later that day or the next morning.

Why Don’t More of Us “Stay in Touch” by Massaging Our Babies?

Despite all the evidence on how wonderful touch and massage are for babies and parents, it’s still not a typically “American” thing to do. In part, that may be because parents have been cautioned that it might spoil their infants.

These warnings have had a chilling effect on how we raise our babies. In our culture, we don’t often stroke our babies and when we do our touch is usually muffled by layers of clothing. As previously mentioned, while many American parents hold their infants for less than eight hours a day, many parents in other cultures keep “in touch” with their babies for more than twenty hours a day. That’s why, sadly, from our infants’ perspective, the United States could be classified as a third-world country lacking a richness of touch and deprived of a balanced diet of caressing.

Giving your baby a massage is also wonderful for moms and dads because it can lower your stress and boost your self-esteem.

If you would like to learn more about the technique of baby massage, an excellent resource is Vimala McClure’s Infant Massage.

Walks Outside:

Calming Some Babies Is Just a Stroll in the Park

If our babies could talk, they would probably bug us, “Why can’t we live outside like all the other Stone Age families?” Our ancient relatives lived outside, and perhaps that’s one reason why some of our little cave babies get deadly bored sitting at home. For them, nothing is more fun than hearing the wind in the trees, feeling the air on their faces, and watching the continually moving shadows.

Some parents ask me how calming by being outside fits with the idea of the fourth trimester. For babies, a walk outside is a parade of calming out-of-focus images and jiggly, soothing rhythms. I believe they are lulled by this hypnotic flow of gentle sensations, like a constant, multisensory white noise.

So, when your baby is crying, try giving her a breath of fresh air. Going for a walk will also help lift your spirits and fill you with a sense of peace.
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