We have done our first Relax & Stretch class and I’m pleased to report that it was a positive experience. The teacher was lovely (I’d been worried about having to feed Pip during the class, but she encouraged us to behave as if at home and just watch anything we couldn’t participate in) and the exercises weren’t too strenuous or weird. It even involved some singing of old favourites such as Hickory Dickory Dock and The Wheels on the Bus!
I can definitely see the benefits of the Yoga/Pilates part of the class – the bit for the Mums – which focuses on core strength and abdominal muscles. However, Pip looked a bit bemused by the baby massage and while he loved the singing and cuddling bits, I’m not so sure about the squeezing and wiggling. Is there really any point in baby massage? It’s not like he has experienced any stress (unless being born counts!)
Reading around this, it sounds like there are actually loads of benefits for the baby. Babycentre lists just a few:
“Massage may help your baby to:
- strengthen her attachment to you
- stay relaxed and not get upset
- cry less
- sleep better
One study showed that massage may reduce the number of illnesses your baby has, cutting down on the need for trips to see the doctor or nurse. We need more studies to be done to confirm this, though. There’s also a theory that touch and skin-to-skin contact help to stimulate your baby’s brain development.”
I didn’t realise that although it’s a physical activity, baby massage can support the brain as well!
Even the National Literacy Trust promotes baby massage. What has massage got to do with literacy? Apparently, baby massage helps develop your baby’s language of touch, and promotes effective communication using body language. Who knew literacy wasn’t just books!
The Literacy Trust page links to some interesting research summaries on how baby massage has been shown to benefit mothers suffering from postnatal depression, as well as supporting preterm and colicky babies. It also points towards a list of useful publications and websites. One of these is the International Association of Infant Massage, which promotes massage through training, education and research.
There are quite a few guides on how to massage your baby out there, but I get the impression that it is better to learn from a qualified person just in case. Babies are such delicate little things (despite their chubby thighs!) and personally I wouldn’t have known whether I was doing it properly if I hadn’t experienced it in the class situation. However, if you’re feeling confident, this video from Johnson’s Baby shows the basics:
Anyway, all this has served to convince me once and for all that baby massage is most definitely worth doing! I’ll be heading to next week’s Relax & Stretch class with renewed enthusiasm.