Apr 12, 2012

Why Baby Massage Matters By Karen Faulkner

Why baby massage really matters.
I’m a Child and Family Health Nurse from Australia and I’ve been teaching parents baby massage for over 14 years.
As a midwife I knew it was important but didn’t really understand why. Now that I
know why, I think every parent should be taught this marvellous skill. I think its integral to building a relationship and really understanding your baby.
Baby massage is touch at its most basic. It originated in India, we think, many
years ago. It has a very spiritual aspect to it and through practice we can learn to really understand our baby. It is mindful and in the moment. Something that our fast paced, technology driven lives, really are not.

I think that’s what initially hooked me, the in the moment stuff! It also
seemed a bit mysterious and there was something really powerful about it.

As a Health Visitor, working in a Sure Start area in Salford Manchester, this
perception I had was so different to my work reality. We were taught baby
massage to work, one on one with fathers in ‘at risk’ families to try and reduce
child protection issues. The idea was that if the father massages the baby, he
forms a relationship with his baby, which then hopefully helps to protect it. The
theory was that it’s hard to hurt something that you’ve formed an intimate
bonding experience with. The child protection cases on my caseload numbered
10%. It was huge and overwhelming.

What I witnessed was: learning by both parents of how to read and
understand their babies and linking into their cues. It was a light bulb moment. I
found that commenting on the reciprocal pleasure father and baby were
experiencing really helped the fathers blossom. In England, fathers from a lot of
low socio-economic areas are often absent from the parenting role, for a variety
of reasons. These fathers blossomed and looked forward to my visits at their

Babies benefit from touch in many ways. As well as enhancing the infant parent relationship and bonding, it also has a beneficial effect on the immune system and circulation. Premature babies that are massaged are found to grow more than babies that aren’t. It helps the immature digestive system by reducing colic and wind and treating constipation and reflux.
When you massage your baby you really look into their eyes. We know that
direct eye contact builds connections in the baby’s brain and connects the
synapses that cement emotional intelligence. So never underestimate the power of
baby massage. It’s so much more than just a series of strokes with some lovely

Find out more about Karen, a Child and Family Health Nurse.
Nurture Parenting Solutions, was established in March 2011 by Karen Faulkner. A Sydney (Australia) based parenting support service that is located in the Inner West and Eastern Suburbs. Karen is a Child and Family Health Nurse and Registered Midwife with 24 years experience. She trained in England as a Nurse and Midwife at large teaching hospitals in Leeds and London; attending University of Manchester to study as a BSc (Hons) Community Specialist Practitioner/Health Visitor and Nurse Prescriber. She also holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology from Bolton Institute, UK.

She has a strong interest in supporting families and strengthening the family unit. Having worked in social support and outreach programmes in the UK and Melbourne and in the Inner West and Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. She has a particular interest in Baby Massage and has taught this for the past 14 years. A proven ‘baby whisperer’, she teaches parents how to settle their babies/children and establish healthy and positive day and night routines. She believes very strongly in working in partnership with families and helping them find their own solutions to the modern challenges of parenting.


sarah said...

Hello Stacy and Carol. I have seven kids and three of them have special needs . One time we were taught about the value of massage to our children. Sad to say, I am not good with it as my 2 kids who have autism are now 12 and 8 years respectively .Is it alright for me to take them to a spa so a professional can have them do it ? What instructions or practical tips can you suggest if money is tight and a parent cannot afford the services of a spa ?

I also hope you can write about my autistic daughter's Sidney who frequently leaves home, become missing for a few weeks yet still get to come home safe . I never had the chance to have any of my special kids attend therapy sessions because financially I cannot afford it. Plus she does not want to attend school anymore and prefers to be in front of the computer often.

I love your posts. It helps us look at the world of parenting differently.


Carol Lawrence And Stacy Toten said...

Sarah, so sorry to hear about your daughter missing. Have you found her yet? For resources for Autism you must check out Suzy Miller. http://www.suzymiller.com/ She has lot's of resources we think you will find very helpful. For your children, do you know anyone who does massage + energy work that would work within your budget? I even suggest emailing Suzy your questions or asking her on Facebook. Keep us posted on what you learn. Thanks for reading our blog and providing feedback. We really appreciate you. We will check into your massage question and get back to you.

Karen said...

Hello Sarah,
thank you for your comments. Massage can be started at any age and your 12 and 8 year old would benefit from it now. There's lots of ways to get around the cost issue. When i trained as a massage therapist we started off learning about touch by experiencing and performing hand massages on each other. So that is one idea. You can't really do anything wrong with massage strokes. I think its just important to try them and find out what each individual likes and dislikes. Use an oil like grapeseed which can be bought from the supermarket in the cooking oil isle. Its light and non greasy and has good slippage qualities. Try and do strokes away from the heart ie down the hand towards the end of the fingers, this creates relaxation (lowers blood pressure). Strokes towards the body/heart invigorate. Try and do it every day at the end of the day as part of a bedtime routine. Also try a foot massage, gentle circular strokes on the soles of the feet and firm strokes from heel to toes with several fingers and then strokes from bottom to top of each toe. Another nice massage is a head massage. In Australia nearly every hairdresser does this as part of the shampooing process. Its fab. I nearly fall asleep every time!
Another idea is to try out a local college that has massage students as they need people to practice on. Make sure they know and understand about the autism. Ask around as well, personal recommendation is always a good option.
So, hopefully I've given you a few ideas. Just try and you will be amazed,. Build up the parts of the body that are massaged, use the right firmness of stroke or the individual child - sometimes firm strokes are better as light strokes can be ticklish!
Good luck with it all Sarah. Let me know how you get in. Sending love and positive thoughts from Australia. Karen ;-)

Carol Lawrence And Stacy Toten said...

Thank you Karen for sharing some of your different massage techniques!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! Our baby girl Sunny loves massage after her evening bath with a little bit of lavender in grapeseed oil - I strongly believe it's a good way to bond, promote relaxation and even babies need to " de- stress" a little ( :