I recommend trying to learn from a book, or taking a class.
My favorite book is Infant Massage a Loving Handbook by Vimala McClure.
She learned in India, where the cultural norm is to massage babies ( and Mothers!). She has good photos along with the descriptions.
We offer a class through Emerson Healthy Living.
If there are no classes where you live here are some general suggestions to get you started:
1.Have your area all set up, oil, towel, pillow, turn off your cell phone.
2.Make sure you are calm and relaxed, you will transfer your calmness to your baby: Before you start close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
3. Make sure the area is warm enough for your baby some of her skin exposed.
4.Read your baby’s cues.
I usually say that one cue that they are done, and I keep going, two cues and I stop.
Cues that a baby will give that they are over stimulated, or need a break:
looking away from you
placing one or both hands in front of their face
For example if my 6 mo is a bit squirmy; tryting to roll away; I might give her a rattle and try to continue, if she then starts to fuss, then I pick her up.
If my 4 week old starts to shiver/quiver ( a sign of being cold, or being over stimulated), I might pause and lay my hand on her chest, when she is calm I might continue.
If she looks away, I might continue, if she looks away and fusses, or puts her hand in front of her face, I will stop and pick her up.
Babies love massage, but that does not mean that they are always ready, or in the right behavioral state for it (think mood).
A great book to start you off on cue reading : Your Baby is Speaking to You, by Kevin Nugent.
4. Make sure your baby can see you, position her so she is angled toward you, not the ceiling.
5. Use firm pressure, imagine how you like a massage to be, no one wants to be tickled.
6. Start with your baby’s feet or hands.
Enjoy the time with your baby.
In general if you are going to give your infant a massage use an edible oil instead of lotion. Your baby may learn to bring their feet to their mouth while you are massaging them, or they may just be exploring their mouth with their hands, suck their thumb… you get the idea. What ever you put on their skin could easily end up in their mouth.
Also our skin absorbs what ever is put on it.
Having said that, not all oils are great for our skin.
What is Good: safflower, and sunflower are inexpensive, and work well. I can find both of these in my local supermarket.
Avocado is very creamy, and feels great, it is a bit expensive, and not as easy to find.
Canola works well.
What is not recommended: Olive oil. Research studies have shown it can be an irritant to the skin. It is great to ingest, and helps break down cholesterol, it is suggested that it may breaks down oils in our skin, thus leaving the skin drier than before it was used. Never use peanut oil, it is very irritating to the skin.
The following are derived from fruits which are tree nuts, so you might want to check with your pediatrician before using them.
Coconut butter or oil- which can be drying
Almond oil- this has a scent and you want your baby to smell your scent, as this adds to the bonding experience.
Make sure you are all ready before starting a massage, your hands and your baby will get slippery, you won’t be able to jump up to get something, and you need to make sure you can hold your baby safely. Have a towel beside you.
If you want to use a scented oil. I recommend adding a small amount of lavender oil to the oil you are using. This has a mild smell and is soothing.
Sit back and enjoy the time with your baby.
I am a huge fan of infant massage. When I brought my youngest child home from China where we had adopted her, I felt I needed another way to communicate my love for her, and help us to bond together. Giving her a massage each night was just the ticket.
She was a little reluctant at first, but quickly learned to enjoy the massages. I started with her feet, and worked my way up to her arms, back and face. Now at 18 she will still ask for the occasional massage. It is a nice way to connect.
Why Massage Your infant:
There is so much research on infant massage, and the benefits are numerous:
Improved ability to go to sleep, stay asleep and awake refreshed
Improved weight gain
Increased oxytocin for both the infant and the person giving the massage
It can aide digestion, and help decrease constipation.
In our busy times, with the distractions of modern life, and the need for both parents to go back to work when baby is still quite young; it is important to connect with your child and form a strong bond, so you will become the intuitive parent you want to be.
It is fun and relaxing.
I teach classes at the following location:
The Emerson Wellness Center for Mind and Body
310 Baker Ave., Concord, MA.
This fall I am combining infant massage with infant motor development. So far the parents have been really pleased to be able to ask questions about their babies development, what equipment makes sense, to swaddle or not to swaddle?
To sign up for a class go to:
In my next blog I will discuss what oils are best to use when giving a massage to your infant.
Many parents ask me if they should encourage standing their infant who is under a year. As the cutie in the photo above shows; for that 8 month photo, fine.
But otherwise the simple answer is: no. Standing your infant delays development of crawling, and as we know babies need to crawl to develop core strength, visual perception, gain lots of sensory experience, and to explore. For more information check out these blogs on crawling.
Babies have a reflex when they are born called the Stepping Reflex. Your pediatrician will check to see if it is present, and will hold your newborn and young infant upright to see if they will take weight on their legs. It is a part of a general check up.
Parents often see this early standing, “taking steps.” and get excited about the possibility of their child standing, or maybe walking early, and so they encourage it. But as with other reflexes it needs to go away.
The following baby equipment can encourage this reflex; jumpers, walkers and play saucers.
By re-enforcing this primitive reflex you are causing three things to happen:
1.Your 4-6 month old will try to stand in your lap instead of working on sitting; sitting is harder and uses different muscles. Sitting gets delayed.
2. The reflex makes it hard for your baby to go from their tummy up onto hands and knees ( and thus learn to crawl) because: their legs keep shooting out straight behind them, instead of nicely coming up under them. This awkwardness happens because their legs have been trained to stay straight; from all that abnormal standing.
3. It can lead to a child who walks on their toes, because the primitive reflex was ingrained early on. For more information check out this post on: Toe walking.
What to do:
A. Lots of Tummy Time early on; (newborn) so their core muscles get strong, and they become motivated to reach for toys and play. When this happens (3 months if they have had alot of tummy time): they will entertain themselves for longer periods of time. Then around 3-5 months they will start start to pivot around on their tummy and find more toys. Then around 6 -8 months they will work on getting onto hands and knees in preparation for crawling. And with all these fun movement experiences they won’t bug you to stand them!
B. Let your baby sit in your lap, in such a way that they are supported, and doing a bit of work at the same time. They will then slowly build up strength in their back muscles, and stop trying to stand, or trying to constantly push against you with their back. Here is a a nice example of a sitting position.
B. If you are on the floor, have your baby sit between your legs, give them a bit of support.
C. Avoid putting pressure on your baby’s feet; avoid the use of walkers, and standers, under the age of 6-8 months, and no jumpers ever. Avoid bouncing them in standing on your lap.
Remember this is what you want:
and when they are really good they will be able to lift one arm up, like this:
Then they will lift that arm up to pull up on the couch. Or in this child’s case the handle on the cabinet, and pull to stand.
When can a child stand? When they have mastered the above and can pull themselves up. This typically happens around 11-15 months.
Here is a video of a baby pulling to stand. What I like is that she pulls up with one leg. If your baby uses both legs at once to pull up, retrain them to use one leg to pull up -at a time. They can alternate which leg does it. But using two legs at once and sort of pushing off both feet is not a typical pattern, and will not help with walking.
If you are concerned that your one year old has no interest in trying to stand, speak with your pediatrician about it and consider having your child evaluated by Early Intervention or a Pediatric physical Therapist in an outpatient setting. But prior to one year, don’t worry your baby will learn all she needs from rolling, tummy time, sitting and crawling.
This can be a big decision.
If your child is:
Coming to stand before one year, and starting to walk around 12 months: than bare feet and First Walkers are fine.
If your child is not standing at one year and not walking at 13/14 months: Get a shoe that has a firm sole that is stiff and hard to bend, and comes up around their foot, maybe even a high top. Faux or real leather, not canvas. This may inhibit their crawling, so if it does, do not have them wear the shoes all the time, just for a few hours/day. The idea is to give them a little extra support while they are learning to be on their feet, and start to walk.
You can find something like this at K Mart, or Zappos, especially in the fall or winter.
These are called See Kai Run Katie Sneaker. They are firm, but light enough for summer use when leather boots are too hot. I usually nix any that aren’t leather, because they are not stiff enough. But these are fine.
What if your child wears a brace (AFO) or shoe insert ( Sure Step Orthosis)?
You need to consider a shoe that:
a. Gives some support
b. Goes on easily without being 3 sizes too large (may have to be 1-2 sizes larger)
c.Will have to be extra wide.
d. May need to remove sole of shoe.
Here are some examples of what parents have done:
One parent ordered four pairs from Zappos, after searching: “wide toe box + kids shoes”: and chose one after removing the sole, spending about $35.00, (return shipping is free.)
With the wide toe box it was easier to get the Sure Step orthotic into the shoe, she took out the inner sole.
This parent bought these at Stride Rite for $50.ish
This parent went to a large shoe store at a mall, and spent under $30.00.
This parent spent $70.00 and bought these from Keeping Pace.
Here is great information from the CHASA web site written by and for parents: