Baby massage is a longstanding traditional parenting tool in many cultures and was introduced to the western world during the last 30 years by IAIM founder Vimila McClure, and is gaining in popularity in Ireland since 2001. Baby Massage is centered around the idea of nurturing touch between the baby and their primary care giver. The massage uses gentle rhythmic strokes and calming holds.
I run a 5 week Baby Massage Courses in my home in Laytown, Co. Meath. Laytown is 10 minutes drive from Drogheda and Balbriggan, as well as on a bus route from Drogheda.
Classes take place in a cosy space in my home and depending on class numbers it can be set up for a one to one class or up to 7 mum and baby pairs (I'll mention mums in the rest of this article for ease, but it could as easily be dads or grandparents or any primary care giver). As you can see we sit on the floor on a nice padded blanket and cushions (but if you need more support we can set you up on the couch).
The Course runs for 1.5 hr each week. Time for chat, massage and tea and treats.
On arriving to my home you will be welcomed, pop your shoes off and take your seat. You'll receive a bag containing all you need for the course: - oil, illustrated stroke handout, official IAIM book to borrow for the length of the course, and a little treat.
Once every one is settled we have an introduction round to introduce or recap on mum and baby's names, its so easy with the dreaded baby brain to forget each others names! Then a little ice breaker to get to know each other a little better. A big part of the class is building relationships between the mums, providing a safe space for sharing anything from birth stories, the sometimes overwhelming shock of new motherhood, the joy of little milestones, the worst poo explosion stories! Motherhood can be isolating and finding people to share your experiences is a big step to ease the transition.
We then move on to the relaxation for mums before the actual massage. Each week I try to do a different type of relaxation, whether a stretch and breath exercise, a deep breathing, a mindful moment or repeating affirmations, it's all focused on helping mums to start the massage in a calm present way. Baby's are so intuitive, so it is important that whoever is massaging the baby is showing them a relaxed calm exterior. We then move on to the massage. I have been asked in the past if I massage the babies. The answer is no. I have a special weighted demo doll "Samuel" that I use to demonstrate the strokes. The parents do all the massaging, building on their bond with their baby.
We always ask baby his or her permission to do a massage, this is an important step. Showing baby respect and letting them know what is going to happen. We massage on bare skin using organic cold pressed vegetable oil, I provide a little tin of coconut oil. Attendees also receive laminated sheets containing all the strokes that they will be learning and practicing on their babies over the 5 week course.
As the course progresses, the babies get very familiar with the massage and it is lovely to hear mums find their baby's favorite strokes, or a particular stroke they didn't enjoy that week. The one to one time between mum and baby is such an important benefit of the course. We all have such busy lives and certainly with a new baby there is so much to do at home, it is often tempting when baby is calm to pop on another wash, or start dinner prep. But taking that calm time of baby's and doing a massage is such a lovely way for the pair to build connection. Mums get to know their baby, what they like, how they enjoy being touched, what they dislike, and as the weeks go on, mums can feel the physical changes, feel their baby grow.
Each week we build on the strokes we learnt the previous week, so by week 5 we can do a full body massage. As well as the full body massage, I also teach some gentle yoga movements and a colic routine that can help with anything from a very upset "colicy" baby to those that just have a little wind.
Following the massage we have a bit of time to discuss a topic relating to the massage- benefits of massage, bonding, baby sleep, etc. Then of course the all important tea and treats along with chats on all sorts of newborn and new mum topics.
I also have an extensive library of parenting books and baby carriers/ slings available for attendees to borrow free of charge (one weeks sling rental included in the course).
As well as increasing connection and building on the bond between mum and baby, there are so many other benefits of Baby Massage for both baby and mum. Babies gain relief from wind and gas pains, symptoms of teething and congestion. Positive touch promotes growth and builds immunity. Massage releases Oxytocin in both baby and mama. So both get a lovely hit of the love hormone. Massage may aid sleep, I often find many babies have a great sleep straight after the class. Mums often incorporate the massage into their bedtime wind-down.
Check out my website Little Ones Baby Massage and Baby Wearing for my next class.
***What past clients say***
"Not only did I learn about baby massage and its benefits, but lots of other parenting advice was shared within the group every week." L
"Rachel is a great teacher and very mindful of individual baby's needs." N
"Would high recommend to anyone with a baby." N
"Baba's brothers love to join in and help with our massage, it's a real bonding experience for all the family" A
"I looked forward to our class every friday and picked up great tips and skills that I still use with baba" J
"the massages I learnt will and have been very useful in calming and relaxing my baby. I would highly recommend everyone with a newborn to go, it was brilliant" E
"It definitely helps with communication between you and your baby."
"My husband and mum even give her little massages which helps with their bonding as well as relaxing her or helping if she's going through a growth spurt and could be fussy due to "growing pains"" L
"I was very impressed with the resources provided & the tea & biscuits were a lovely touch" K
"Above & beyond my expectations. I never expected to meet such nice people & baby relaxed so much over the 5 wk course. Even his physiotherapist commented on how much more relaxed he was from seeing him after 1 class & after final class."O
"It provided a great opportunity to meet other new mums & their babies." K
"Since doing the course I have used the techniques learned almost daily. I would recommend it to anyone!" M