What is the best age for baby massage classes?

When I’m having initial discussions with parents interested in baby massage, the one question that nearly always comes up is: when is the right age for their baby to come to classes – will their little one be too young or too old?

As with so many decisions in life (especially parenting!) there are no hard and fast rules – it depends on you and your baby.  In this article I have outlined some of the things that you might want to consider in working out what is right for you and your child.

Firstly, let me emphasise that what we are talking about here relates to attending baby massage group classes – not baby massage itself.  For infant massage in general there is no such thing as too young or too old!   Many traditional cultures start massaging from the day that the baby is born, and continue doing so on a daily basis.  And you can keep going as long as you and your child are both happy, just adjusting what you do appropriately: even teenagers may be happy to have a foot rub whilst they are sat watching TV with you, or a quick shoulder massage as a break from bending over their homework.  The best way to think of massage is as an extension of positive, loving touch between you and your child – and there are no age limits for that.

Attending a baby massage course however does involve carrying out the massage in a specific place at a specific time, with other people – which means there are additional factors we need to consider. 

Whilst thinking about the issues below, try to bear in mind that coming to baby massage classes, whatever the age of the baby, is something we do with our baby, not to them – it is a partnership.  This is one of the ways that it is such a special time!  But it also means that we need to have realistic expectations and understand that, whatever their age, our baby may not always want an hour long massage right at that moment – they may want to feed, or sleep, be picked up so they can look around, or simply have a cuddle.  This is completely normal and appropriate and we work with this – all classes are baby led so you simply respond to your baby’s needs as and when you need to.

Starting Young

The youngest age for classes is 4 weeks old, with many babies starting around the 6 week point.

There are lots of advantages to coming at this young age.

  • The main reason is that you and your baby are getting the benefits of baby massage from as early as possible. Baby Massage has been shown to have lots of positive outcomes including better sleep, help with tummy troubles, and improved development.  By coming to massage class when your baby is still small you can be enjoying these benefits sooner!  Whilst I don’t like to promise a magic wand, lots of parents do comment on how their baby is sleeping better, which can be a massive help at this age.
  • Babies at this age are constantly taking in lots of new experiences so they naturally accept massage as one of these.
  • It builds straight away on that early bond between parent and baby.
  • It gives you an opportunity to learn massage at an early stage in your life as a parent to this child, and you can then use it as part of your general life and routines for a greater length of time.
  • This can sometimes be a difficult time for parents – physically and emotionally demanding but maybe not fully settled into their new life – and the support of other parents can be invaluable.
  • Baby massage has been shown to improve parents’ confidence, and help reduce post natal depression – again, great benefits to have at this early stage.

Babies at this age tend to spend a lot of time feeding and sleeping, and less time in the awake/alert phase.  This can mean mums feel they may miss out on class time if their little one is asleep or needs to feed.  However, it is important to remember that the hour you spend at baby massage class is only one element of the experience – there will be plenty of opportunities for you to massage your baby at home in your own time. I always have a spare demonstration doll for mums to use if their baby is sleeping, so they can still practice the moves and build up the muscle memory for when they practice at home.  In terms of feeding, most babies will need a feed or a nappy change at some point during the class!  All classes are baby led so you can respond to your baby’s needs, whenever you need to. 

The other issue to consider at this stage is you!  For some new mums, getting out of the house for a specific time can be quite stressful, whilst for others having a bit of routine, getting out of the house and chatting to other mums can be a lifeline and a highlight of their week. Also make sure you are ready physically to come to the classes – it isn’t particularly demanding but we are sitting on the floor for the session.

Anecdotally, from my experience teaching infant massage, I tend to find that for the babies that come to my classes at 5-6 weeks, the mums may not get much massage done in the first week, but by the end of the course their babies are the ones who are most relaxed!

Older babies

Baby massage classes are restricted to pre-crawlers.  The main reason for this is that babies who have started being able to move around usually like to practice their exciting new skill a lot, and it is harder to learn massage on a constantly crawling baby!  It can also be less relaxing for everyone if we have bigger babies crawling over little ones as they are having their massage.

However if your little one has not yet started crawling, there can be lots of benefits to bringing an older baby to class. 

  • there will usually be longer periods of time when your baby is awake but not needing a feed, so you are more likely to enjoy the full massage time in class.
  • You may well have settled into more of a routine, possibly even getting a bit more sleep, so getting out and about is easier.
  • Babies who have developed better head and upper body control will enjoy showing this off whilst they have their back massage. Hands are also more open and easier to massage.
  • Parents are often more confident and ready to learn a new skill
  • As feeding may be happening less often, parents enjoy a new way of physically bonding and skin to skin contact with their baby.

Don’t worry if your baby is a bit wriggly and rolling over – a lot of moves can be adjusted to accommodate this. However you may need to be a bit more patient and ready to be creative!

 

If you still aren’t sure what is right for you and your baby, please feel free to get in touch to discuss your particular situation. 

We can also arrange 1:1 classes in your own home, which means we can adapt the session to your own individual requirements, and this also means we can cover a wider range of ages.

Whatever the age of your baby, don’t miss out on the benefits that massage can bring for both of you!

 

 

Melt away your tension with a Hot Stone massage

 

Hot stone massage involves using smooth, flat, heated stones as an extension of the therapist’s hands.  The heat from the stones is deeply relaxing and helps warm up tight muscles, enabling me as the therapist to work deeper into them more quickly.  It is thought that one stroke of a heated stone is equivalent to 5-10 strokes of a therapist’s hand, meaning that you experience a deeper, more relaxing massage in the same time as a normal treatment.

The heat of the stones also maximises the ability of the skin to absorb the oils being used in the massage, increasing their beneficial effects.

The practice of using stones in massage is believed to date back thousands of years, and were used in the traditions of ancient civilizations in India, China and the North American Indians.

We use natural basalt stones for our hot stone massage.  Basalt is formed from molten lava that has cooled following a volcanic eruption, and is one of the most common igneous rocks.  Basalt stones are dark in colour due to the amount of iron, magnesium and other heavy elements they contain, and these elements allow the basalt stones to absorb, hold, and give out a consistent and soothing heat.

A Hot Stone massage has all the benefits of a normal massage treatment but with the extra benefits of thermotherapy.  Clients find it very relaxing and nurturing at the same time as being able to receive a deep and soothing treatment for stiff and aching muscles.   It (literally) melts away tension, increasing circulation as the hot stones expand blood vessels, which encourages blood flow (and therefore oxygen) throughout the body. The hot stones can also have a sedative effect that can relieve chronic pain, reduce stress and promote deep relaxation.

  • Provides relief from pain associated with fibromyalgia, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and other chronic conditions
  • Decreases pain and muscle spasms
  • Reduces chronic stress and tension
  • Increases flexibility in joints, aiding in easier mobility and movement
  • Relieves pain and tension created by strained and contracted muscles

Contact us now to arrange your Hot Stones treatment and be prepared to feel your tension melt away!

NB: Hot Stones treatment can be enjoyed by most clients, as the temperature of the stones can be adjusted.  However due to the element of heat involved extra caution is advisable for those who may have skin conditions or issues with sensitisation.  If you are unsure whether Hot Stones would be suitable for you, please do get in touch with us to discuss further.

The Benefits of Baby Massage

What if there was an enjoyable way to spend time with your baby, which has also been shown to help babies sleep better, improve their development, gain weight, cry less and feel less stressed? 

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if at the same time you could be improving your own mental health, increasing your confidence as a parent and your interaction with your new child?

Baby Massage provides all of these benefits!

In many cultures baby massage is part of normal parenting, passed down through the generations as part of the daily care that is given to a new born infant.  Here in the western world it is now being re-discovered as a way to promote loving, nurturing contact.  

Baby massage is something we do with our little ones, not to them. 

It is an interaction, a way of expressing love, care and respect for our baby and their body. 

Touch is one of the first forms of communication babies learn, and it is vital for both physical and psychological development. 

Every parent can learn how to massage their baby!

 

Benefits For Babies

  • Develops a feeling of being loved, respected and secure
  • Teaches what positive loving touch is
  • Improves quality of sleep1
  • Can help to reduce crying, “fussiness” and stress1
  • Develops body awareness and coordination
  • Promotes weight gain, alertness and development2
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Can help alleviate trapped wind, colic, constipation and other “tummy troubles”
  • Can help with the pain of teething
  • Helps loosen mucus in the chest or sinuses
  • Strengthens and tones growing muscles
  • Continues benefits of skin to skin contact that may become less common as baby grows, particularly as breastfeeding lessens or stops

Benefits For Parents

  • Helps you connect and enjoy a positive interaction with your baby
  • Increased confidence in yourself as a parent
  • Promotes positive loving touch
  • Provides an opportunity for focusing 1:1 without distractions, outside the routine of feeding, changing and sleeping
  • You become more familiar with your baby’s body, and can enjoy noticing how it is developing
  • You become better at picking up on baby’s cues and being able to respond as needed
  • Provides practical tools for soothing common ailments
  • Promotes lactation in breastfeeding mums by stimulating hormones
  • Provides additional opportunities for skin to skin contact for non breast feeding parents (mums and dads!)
  • You are able to relax with your baby and enjoy sharing the experience together
  • Particularly useful for those suffering from post natal depression3 or lacking confidence in their abilities as parents

Learn Baby Massage with us!

Learning Baby Massage can be easy, friendly and relaxing.

All our classes our baby-led, so there is no need to worry about how your baby will be during the class.  We expect babies to need cuddles, feeds and nappy changes! This happens naturally as needed during the class.

The massage techniques are taught over a series of sessions so that you gradually learn a routine for massaging your baby from head to toe.  We repeat strokes plenty of times so that it is easy to learn and build up your confidence.

The aim of the class is for you and baby to feel relaxed, and for you to learn skills you can use at home.  We give you a bottle of organic oil to take away and practice with and a booklet showing all the strokes you need to know.

There are several different ways to learn with us: you can join a group class and meet other parents, learn on a 1:1 basis, or we can organise sessions for you and your friends to learn together.   More details on the different options can be found on our Baby Massage main page, or you are welcome to get in touch to ask any questions you may have.

 

 

 “Being touched and caressed, being massaged,

is food for the infant.  Food as necessary as

minerals, vitamins and proteins.”

Dr Frederik Leboyer

 

1 Medical and educational researchers from the University of Warwick looked at nine studies of massage of nearly 600 infants.  They found significant results that infants who were massaged cried less, slept better and had lower levels of stress hormones compared to infants who did not receive massage.

2 The report “Massage of preterm newborns to improve growth and development” published in Paediatric Nursing showed that pre-term babies who received three short massage treatments a day gained on average 47% more weight per day, were more awake and active a greater percentage of time, showed improvements in behaviour and motor skills and were hospitalised less than the non-massaged babies.  This superior growth and development was still evident when tested eight months later, and was thought to result from improved parent-infant interaction, facilitated by the massage.

Several other studies have found similar results.

3 Imperial College London report  “Massage and mother baby interaction with depressed mothers” showed that mothers who attended five baby massage classes had significantly less depression and very significantly better interaction with their babies than a similar control group who had attended a support group.

 

 

 

 

 

Massage and mental health

Depression and anxiety are unhappy companions for too many of us.  Whilst it is a positive step forward that mental health is something that can be spoken about more honestly and openly, it also reveals just how many people are struggling with this aspect of life.  Stress and depression impacts our lives emotionally and physically, putting our bodies and our relationships under strain.

The good news is that there are things that can help, and whilst for many this means talking therapy, studies show that touch therapies can also have an important part to play.

How?  Many of us spend to much time in “fight or flight” mode, our bodies sympathetic nervous system.  In response to stress the hormone cortisol is produced, which drives up blood pressure and blood sugar levels and suppresses the immune system.  All great for when you need to run away from danger or fight off a real physical threat, but not great when you are sat at your desk or laying awake in the middle of the night. Massage significantly reduces cortisol levels, helping the body turn off this alarm mode and move to “rest and restore” (the parasympathetic nervous system), allowing our heart rate to reduce and those churning digestive muscles to relax.

  • A review of more than a dozen massage studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine concluded that massage therapy relieves depression and anxiety by affecting the body’s biochemistry.  A series of studies looking at approx. 500 individuals (men, women and children) with depression or stress problems showered that cortisol levels were lowered by up to 53% after a massage treatment.
  • The International Journal of Neuroscience studied a group of people with spinal cord injuries who were also suffering from depression.  Split into two groups, half the patients received two 40-minute massages per week, whilst the other half received two 40 minute sessions of motion exercises.  Whilst both groups improved their physical abilities over the period, the people who received the massage therapy also became less depressed.
  • Researchers at the University of Miami followed 37 breast cancer patients who either received massage therapy or practiced progressive muscle relaxation for five weeks.  Women in the massage group reported feeling less depressed and angry, and they had more energy.

As well as reducing cortisol levels massage can increase the levels of both serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that can help reduce depression and stabilize mood.  This twin effect relaxes your body and mind and boosts your ability to fight off pain and anxiety.

For many individuals the hour they spend receiving the massage may be the only opportunity in their hectic life to be relax, away from demands and distractions, and give themselves permission  to take time out to refocus and feel restored.   The nurturing touch that is central to the massage can also help provide the positive physical human contact that is so common in childhood but often declines as we get older.   This combination can help individuals “turn off” overworked minds and tune in to their body and what it is trying to tell them.

Hopefully as we move forward in our understanding of mental health issues, we can also recognise the role of touch therapies in helping us all manage our mental and emotional health.

Feeling stressed, anxious, depressed?  Book now for a therapeutic massage treatment.  All treatments are individually tailored to your needs.  Nervous clients welcome – trust us to look after you.

 

 

 

Nurture – the value of touch

We are all born knowing the value of touch.

When we hurt ourselves as a child, our parents would “rub it better”.

We rub our cold hands together to bring warmth.

When someone is upset we reach out with a comforting hand.

 

nurture is about making the most of that instinct.

Nurturing our babies, helping their little bodies grow and develop and building our relationship with them.

Nurturing ourselves, helping our minds relax and our bodies restore themselves.

Recognising that in a busy world we need to take time to reconnect, and touch can help us do that.