The lovely Polly of the Bath Massage Company guides us on how to listen to your baby through baby massage…
Babies cry for many reasons, and it is important to learn your baby’s personality and his or her different cries so that you can respond to them. There are cries that mean, “I need affection,” “I’m hungry,” “I’m in pain,” “I’m uncomfortable,” “I’m tired and cranky and don’t know how to get to sleep,” and still others that are simply “venting” all the stress the baby takes in, adjusting to the world of non-stop stimulation.
Each cry can and should be responded to appropriately. Each baby will differ in his or her need for physical affection. Some need to be held nearly all the time for the first months before crawling. Others are curious and independent almost immediately. To force an infant one way or another is to dis-empower them and disrupt the flow of chi they need to become strong, healthy, and independent.
Some people think that babies who cry always need to be calmed and shushed, or, conversely, should be left alone to cry it out. While some people believe that Infants should be left alone to cry it out, other think the opposite and believe that sometimes babies need to cry in the safety of a parent’s arms, without being shushed, to discharge stress. After a certain period, when they sense they are being attended to, they calm and usually sleep much more deeply.
You may have heard the expression ‘Active Listening’, this is a way to be responsive to your baby. When you talk to your baby with a listening heart, they know it and you can see the quality of their cries change. Locking with you eye-to-eye, you will see your baby moving their mouth as if trying to speak. This is one of the most important reasons why massaging your stomach whilst pregnant is so beneficial as babies feel touch first and begin to recognise the supportive and nurturing feeling it gives them, following on with baby massage once they are born continues to offer them support and develops the bond between parent and baby as well as communication.
Spending quality one to one time learning about your babies language and the different cries is an important way to bond with them and learn what they need, nothing else can teach you this except time with them. Many parents say that doing this really helps them to understand what their baby needs, and the cries and fusses don’t distress them so much as inform them of what you need to do to respond appropriately, and thus allow your baby to grow and blossom like a well-tended flower in the garden!
Because infants grow so rapidly, there is often a lot of tension in their little bodies. They work so hard to develop muscle coordination that occasionally they may ache and feel out of sorts. When your body aches, a massage feels both good and uncomfortable at the same time. Your muscles are sore, and even a gentle touch can bring some discomfort. Still, being massaged is so relaxing, and getting blood circulating through your sore muscles is healing, that your grunts and grimaces may mean either pain or pleasure. Often a massage can remind you of aches you never knew you had, but afterward the feelings of relief and release you experience are well worth it. Think about a baby’s perspective — everything is new and thus stressful. The only way to communicate and “talk about” these feelings is to cry.
If you attended childbirth preparation classes, you may remember how you consciously rehearsed relaxing each part of your body, often accompanied by touch from your partner. In baby massage we use a similar routine with your baby, calling their attention to an area, showing them how to relax it, then giving them positive feedback as they learn.
In my class you will learn a simple technique called ‘Touch Relaxation’ which we use before any massage strokes to ease the baby into the feeling of massage and aid them into a more relax state. It is especially good for babies who may be crying or fussing.
At the beginning of the massage we take the babies’ legs which can appear stiff and tense, so we take the leg gently in ours hands, encompassing and molding the hand to our baby’s leg. Now you feel a heavy relaxation in your hand as it conforms to your baby’s skin. Then we gently bounce the leg, repeating in a soft voice, “Reeee-laaaaax.” As soon as you feel any relaxation in the muscles we give the baby some feedback, saying, “Wonderful! You relaxed your leg.” Whilst making eye contact, and then giving them a kiss. This starts the massage with a positive and supportive communication with them.
If you are interested in learning how to massage your baby then take a look at Polly’s dedicated website to see future course dates and read more about baby massage.