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Baby massage is growing in popularity and it should be quite easy for you to find a class in your locality.
I did baby massage when my child was a baby (age 9 now) and it was amazing for both of us. It is quite straightforward to learn the moves and a good instructor will guide you as to how to do them properly and effectively. There are moves which will help to soothe and calm your baby and some which will help to relieve colic (which I found particularly useful!). You just need some baby oil to make sure that your hands move smoothly over your baby's skin. Some classes may provide this for you.
Baby massage is also great at helping to develop your child's muscles. My baby was crawling and sitting up from quite a young age and my health visitor said this may have been due to the baby massage that I did most days.
Getting out to a class is a great way of meeting new people as well and helping your baby to socialise from a young age.
I can highly recommend this activity for mum, dad and baby.
Baby Massage was something that I was introduced to by my Health Visitor when my oldest son was just a few weeks old. He was a very unsettled baby and used to cry a lot. (I later discovered that he had reflux which left him in a lot of discomfort after feeds.) My Health Visitor at the time was starting to run a series of Baby Massage classes and invited me along.
Attending classes automatically makes you think that it must be something complicated but the whole idea of baby massage is very simple. In the same way that massage is used for adults, baby massage helps your little one to relax and is reputed to help digestion, soothe symptoms of colic and relieve aches and pains. You can start some element of baby massage pretty much from birth as it essentially about comforting and soothing your baby through the power of touch, which is something that you instinctively do with your newborn. The classes just provided the knowledge and skills to touch your baby in a way that will maximise the effects and gives you the confidence to massage your baby at home.
I have to admit that I didn't really enjoy the classes very much when I took my oldest son as a tiny baby. I felt self-conscious in front of my Health Visitor, particularly as my oldest was such an unsettled baby and he spent a large part of the sessions crying, rather than relaxing and enjoying a soothing massage as I'd imagined! I only attended a few classes in the end as I found them more stressful than relaxing, although that is more about how I and my baby were feeling at the time and not any reflection on the baby massage classes. Luckily, I decided to give baby massage classes another try when my youngest son was about eight weeks old, as he was a much more settled and placid baby. I am really glad that I did, as he absolutely loved the whole experience right from the very first session! He lay there entranced as I massaged him and, at the end of the session he just lay there on his towel fast asleep. In fact, he slept for about two and a half hours after that first massage class and I can remember thinking that baby massage was an absolute godsend!
The courses that I attended were only small groups with at most six mums and babies at any one time and were funded by SureStart so were totally free of charge which is always a bonus! The course was open to babies between the ages of about six weeks up to one year old. Before six weeks old, lots of babies don't enjoy being naked and after the age of one, most babies are far too active to lay down for any length of time! The classes were run in blocks of six, with each session lasting for an hour, although probably only about half of that time was made up of actual massage, with the rest of the time being an opportunity to socialise with other mums and have a cup of tea while your chilled out baby slept! I much preferred this set-up to more traditional groups as it gave a focus to the group and was less intimidating than I found mother and toddler groups to be.
The content of the course was really relaxed too. There are a few hard and fast rules, for example, you should totally avoid placing any pressure around your baby's spine and when massaging your baby's tummy you're advised to rub in a clockwise direction as this aids digestion. There are specific techniques that we were shown, some of them with fancy names (fancy a bit of Indian Milking, anybody?) but, essentially, we were just shown gentle strokes up and down baby's arms, legs and body. There are different massages that you can perform when your baby is laying on their back or on their front (although some younger babies don't really like being on their fronts.) If your baby objects to any particular part of the massage, you just take the lead from your baby and stop it and try something else. I have no co-ordination whatsoever and I felt that the classes really gave me confidence to touch my baby and know that I could soothe and relax him just with my own hands and a bit of oil.
I didn't have to provide any fancy equipment for the classes, just a large towel, as even the oil that we used was given to us free of charge. Only unscented, vegetable-based oils are recommended for baby massage (such as a good quality grapeseed oil or even olive oil.) Ironically, baby oil isn't actually advised for massaging babies as it's a mineral-based oil and doesn't penetrate the skin. The vast majority of the massage is done with your baby totally naked (so a warm room is a must.) I would also advise taking a spare towel to any classes too, as my baby had a very embarrassing habit of weeing on me during every single class. I did try to outwit him with a strategically placed open nappy on my leg but he would still manage to catch me unawares! We had a couple of other messier accidents along the way too so think carefully about where you massage your baby!
The whole idea of going to classes is that you can carry on the baby massage at home with your baby, particularly as part of a bedtime routine. I confess that I didn't always manage to incorporate this into our routine every night but it was nice to have the option and my baby clearly enjoyed having a relaxing massage in the evenings. Even when he became more mobile, he didn't object to lying down for ten minutes or so for a gentle massage and it was nice to have that wind-down time with him. I think starting the classes when he was just a few weeks old helped as some of the babies that were just that bit older and more mobile didn't always want to stay still long enough to be massaged! Mine always knew what was happening when the little bottle of oil came out and used to lay down as good as gold. (Those were the days!)
I'd recommend baby massage in general, and attending classes in particular, to anybody with a young baby. They are a great alternative to some of the more traditional groups out there and are an ideal way of getting involved in something when your baby is very young. The courses in my area were totally free of charge as they were funded through SureStart. It may be worth contacting Children's Centres in your area as I'd imagine there are similar schemes nationwide. The International Association of Infant Massage has a website that might also be useful: www.iaim.org.uk