Bonding with your baby is not always a clear cut path. Some parents don’t feel that infatuation, at least not instantly. This can be down to many reasons, including a traumatic birth, difficulty adjusting to a new life, lack of sleep, or postpartum depression. But, there are ways to ease the transition- and baby massage is a great one. The wonderful Claire from Family Bear Club has agreed to delve a little (well, a LOT!) deeper into the many benefits to you and your baby.
Being a new mum can be a rollercoaster of emotions, a mix of highs and lows, of hormones, tiredness and exhaustion, all rolled in with pure love, joy and happiness. It can be a bittersweet time. Whether you had a difficult birth, or didn't feel that instant wave of ‘‘love at first sight’ or bond with the baby immediately; feelings of guilt, doubt, judgement and comparison often pop up for new mums. Especially in this surreal time, it can feel isolating and lonely.
We want you to feel confident in your natural parenting skills, you are the best teacher for your child. You will learn what your baby needs, their cues and your bond will develop. Baby Massage has the ability to make both mum and baby feel good and how to continue to develop a secure loving bond.
Massage is a simple method that encourages the power of touch, it allows quality, uninterrupted one-on-one time with baby, making good eye contact, skin to skin, touch, relieving their symptoms and making baby feel relaxed, letting off the feel good endorphins. It also allows mum to feel calm and relaxed.
As we talk and sing through the baby massage baby is recognising our voices.
Baby massage also offers the opportunity to communicate to babies the emotions of love, security, comfort and support. It allows greater understanding of a baby’s subtle non-verbal language and develops a parent’s ability to listen and observe her baby. When a parent massages her baby, she lays down the foundations of trust and security which will aid the development of a happy and confident relationship. Babies will be in close proximity and make direct eye contact with their caregiver during massage, this allows the baby to identify its mother.
Genes are the blueprint for the brain, but aside from nature other outside factors which nurture will also contribute to the development of the brain.
Oxytocin is known as the love hormone and is part of the feel good group of hormones, as it promotes feelings of nurturing and love towards each other. These hormones help to lower the levels of stress hormones in the body and therefore help to lower blood pressure, heart rate, improve appetite. When babies are cared for gently and have their needs responded to, they are less likely to react as strongly to stressful situations and produce less cortisol, which can have an adverse effect on brain development.
When a mother massages her baby, she also produces prolactin and oxytocin which helps her relax. Prolactin is an important hormone for women after birth as it helps build up a milk supply in the breast tissue and therefore it can be particularly useful to have in high levels when breastfeeding. Infant massage plays an important part in beginning, enhancing and continuing the bonding process.
Babies have the ability from birth to recognize touch. Loving relationships, responsive care and stimulating experiences are vital for baby's development as they give baby opportunities to communicate, move and learn about their world.
Interactions with the environment in the first months of life are a busy time for the brain, Babies do need variety to develop but they also require the need for routine, repetition and consistency, seeing the same faces, and hearing the same voices.
By massaging babies it can develop their sensory awareness, It helps to build nerve connections in the brain. It encourages the development of motor skills. When a baby is massaged it aids the process of myelination of the nerve cells in the baby’s body which helps to mature the nervous system and improve overall brain/ body communication.
Massage can help an infant to gain use and coordination of the large muscles of the legs, trunk, and arms, and the smaller muscles of the hands. A baby begins to experience new awareness through sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. Talking and singing to the baby will help to aid their communication skills.
Some tips for new mums self care:
Making time for yourself to relax. Whether that is napping when the baby naps, having a relaxing bath, doing something you enjoy, like reading a book, meditating.
Ask for help,whether from family or friends, local support groups, or the midwife health visitor.
Attend baby massage (you can do this virtually during lockdown!) to help build the bond and secure attachment, and to help both mum and baby feel good- also to meet other parents and have a social community and connection
Its good to talk
You are not alone
Why establishing a good bond between a carer and baby is important.
A good bond between the carer and baby is essential, to get to know each other and to understand the baby's cues and needs, learning what the baby wants when they give out their signals, and responding to their needs and making sure their needs are met.
A baby needs to learn to trust their carer, establishing a good bond will make the baby feel more secure, protected, safe and loved. A strong bond has been shown to help support the emotional and social development of the infant and child.
There are many ways to create a good bond and secure attachment by recommending and encouraging skin to skin contact, responding to baby's needs and cues, making a good eye and lots of smiles with the baby, babies need touch. The baby recognises their carer voice, signing and talking to the baby. Remembering that the parent is the main teacher of the baby and respecting their choices and decisions.
Summary benefits of baby massage:
The power of touch - babies crave skin to skin contact, which promotes and encourages a good secure attachment and bond between carer and baby, it builds their relationship through trust, giving them a sense of safety and security
It released the oxytocin “love” hormone and the “feel good” endorphins making baby and carer feel more relaxed, content and happy, and decreases stress
The mother will also produce oxytocin and prolactin, which can help with milk supply
Massage helps boost circulation and gets oxygen flowing around the body
promotes respiration which encourages deeper breathing
It helps with lymphatic drainage, expelling the toxins and waste out of the body
Reflexology helps with specific organs around the body and helps with pain, such as teething and sinuses
It aids the digestion system, helping to alleviate colic, wind, constipation
It helps babies' nervous system
It helps babies with their sensory and body awareness and coordination
massage can also help to increase a baby’s stimulation threshold helping to make him/her better able to cope with stimulating an environment and better able to process information
It can help baby to sleep better
There is also research that massage can:
Facilitates weight gain in preterm infants
Alleviates depressive symptoms
Reduces stress hormones, cortisol
Improves immune function
I think you can agree, baby massage brings with it a wealth of benefits, not only to your baby, but also to the carer’s mental health and well-being.
If you are interested in learning more about baby massage or baby yoga, do follow Claire on social media, or visit her website. Baby massage courses are currently being run via Zoom, which is awesome, as wherever you are, you can join Claire‘s course! Details can be found on her website/socials, and my testimonial from attending one of her virtual classes can be found at @IAmMelTeaser.
facebook- Family Bear Club Website- www.familybearclub.co.uk