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Massage for infants and young children is an ancient tradition in some countries. In Russia, physicians teach mothers to massage babies to enhance development of the central nervous system.
In general, massage is very relaxing for both child and mother. As well as a relaxation tool, massage may help with crying, colic, teething and sleep problems. It's also the ideal opportunity to create a special fun time and helps parent and child to bond.
Many parents of disabled children find it hard to cope with lots of hospital and clinic appointments. Massage, a few times a week, can ease some of those strains.
Massage enhances connections between parent and child. It gives the child a sense of security and feeling loved. Siblings can also join in by massaging a doll.
Massage and other therapies (such as reflexology) provide both physiological and emotional benefits for babies and toddlers. In a young baby the massage routine will only take about 10 minutes.
It also improves bonding and attachment for parents and child by:
You can massage to music, either soothing or stimulating, depending on the time of day. Choosing the right time to massage your baby can make all the difference to the enjoyment of the experience. Only massage your baby if he or she is in good health.
A baby's skin is very sensitive and prone to allergies so it is advisable to do a patch test 24 hours before commencing massage. The most common massage medium is oil. Cold pressed vegetable oils such as plain olive oil or almond oil deliver nutrients to the skin. Do not use clear baby oils as these are mineral oils and so do not penetrate the skin. They retain moisture and sit as a barrier on the skin.
Coconut oil is popular in India and could be helpful for premature babies as it lacks allergens.
You can use creams such as a Vitamin E cream but you may find these are absorbed too quickly.
Waxes and balms can provide a good medium for massage. Organic beeswax or a propolis wax may be suitable. Propolis comes from bee honeycombs and is excellent for nourishing the skin. It can help with nappy rash or other skin conditions, but is more suitable for babies over one year.
Do not use aromatherapy oils without consulting a qualified practitioner.
If in doubt, seek medical advice.
It's important you learn baby massage from a qualified practitioner. Many Health Clinics now offer baby massage classes. Consult your Health Visitor, Portage Worker or local GP surgery for more information.
You can also find an individual practitioner qualified in baby massage via the Federation of Holistic Therapists.
In some areas there are special sessions for parents of children with additional needs. There may be the opportunity to have one-to-one sessions in your home if you prefer.
There have been some concerns on the use of olive oils in baby massage or for babies who have dry skin or cradle cap. Although there has been no published evidence yet, if you are concerned, Scope would recommend taking a copy of this article and discussing it with your child’s GP or Paediatrician.
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