Baby massage: how to soothe your child's colic and help your baby sleep

In association with Johnson's

There is nothing more precious than a newborn baby - remember when we were all cooing over the first photo of Prince Louis being cradled on the steps of the Lindo Wing by his proud mum, Kate? So cute. But if there's one thing that all new mums – including the Duchess – know, it's that getting our little ones to sleep can be a real challenge.

What many parents don't know is that if your baby is restless or fussy, your simple touch could be all they need to feel soothed and comforted, and ready to sleep. Baby massage is a magical thing. As a mum, there's nothing worse than hearing the sound of your baby crying - especially when you don't know how to help. The soothing strokes of your hand can not only help calm and relax your baby - aiding digestion, improving circulation and helping with teething pain - it can also make you feel great too. Spending time connecting with your little boy or girl stimulates the production of oxytocin – the love hormone - both in you, in your baby and even your partner if he is close.


Baby massage can help your baby to feel comforted and ready to sleep

Baby massage is the gentle, rhythmic stroke of your hands across your baby's skin – using oils or moisturisers to help your hands glide smoothly across their body. You can use any type of gentle, calming oil to do it. JOHNSON’S® Baby Oil, which is developed for newborn skin, free of parabens and  phthalates, locks in more than twice as much moisture than  baby lotion and is incredibly smooth to the touch, while the Bedtime Baby Lotion contains NaturalCalm™, a patented blend of relaxing aromas to help make your little one even calmer.

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One of the most special things about massaging your baby, according to International Association of Infant Massage creator Vimala McClure, is the ability it gives you to communicate with your newborn. Making eye contact, placing your hands on your baby and telling him or her that you're ready to hear what they have to say can create an intense and special bond. A baby who feels listened to will sleep more deeply and will learn to trust. Parents, meanwhile, gain a deeper understanding of their baby's behaviour and body language, as well as feel closer to their baby due to the special one-on-one time. We spoke to Gina Wright –an IAIM teacher – to find out more about the benefits of baby massage…


Find out more about the benefits of baby massage 

How old does the baby have to be to start massage?

Nurturing touch can be given from birth, simply holding baby and stroking, cuddling, resting hands and containment holds, combined with a soothing voice or a lullaby. There isn’t a set age that's right for a baby to attend a massage class, although the structured massage routine may be too stimulating in the first few weeks and generally when baby is about six weeks and more settled into a routine is a good time to get out to join a group. The ideal massage state is when a baby is quiet and alert.

Do all babies like being massaged?

Yes, although all babies are different and some take longer to settle and tolerate the massage stimulation. Since massage is something we do 'with baby ' as opposed 'to baby' it is important to respect and ask baby's permission and if positive cues are given e.g. eye contact, cooing, smiling, lying quietly and alert, then massage can begin. If not wait and watch out for when baby is more receptive. The best time to massage is when baby is in the quiet alert state (colic is the only time to massage when baby is crying or fussing - more on this later). All babies have a need for loving touch and communication, but when they have had enough, you will know to stop! Different babies have different thresholds of stimulation, and if an area of babies body is sensitive, it is best to just practice ‘resting hands’ combined with a soothing voice encouraging baby to relax

What are the main benefits to baby massage?

Massaging your baby can help them feel more securely attached by allowing them to feel loved, valued and respected. That valuable one-on-one time with mum or dad can reduce crying and emotional distress, while also increasing levels of relaxation - therefore promoting longer sleep. Being gently touched will also help the baby develop a sense of body awareness and coordination. And – good news for all parents – it can also offer relief from wind, colic, constipation and teething pain.


Parents will also benefit from baby massage. Not only will it help you feel closer to your baby, by allowing mum to gain a deeper understanding of her baby's behaviour, crying and body language, it is also the perfect chance to enjoy some one-on-one time with your little one. Many parents note an increased confidence in their ability to care for their baby, and studies from around the world have also shown that infant massage also reduces post-natal depression and can help improve mother/baby relationships.

Can you spoil a baby by picking them up and carrying them too much?

No. It has also been shown that daily massage increases the understanding between mother and baby so that the mother actively listens, hears, and tries to understand the baby's different vocalisations, rather than just trying to stop their child crying.

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How many mothers have you seen be helped by massage - what benefits did they see?

We always receive very positive feedback following our classes, with the majority of parents saying that they feel much more confident handling their babies as a result. Most mums and dads also feel that they have much more awareness when it comes to listening to their baby and responding to his or her needs.


Is there a move that can help colicy babies?

There is a colic routine we teach in our massage sessions, which involves resting hands on a baby's abdomen to relax the tummy, while using a soothing voice to gently reassure the child. We then practice a movement called 'the waterwheel’, before moving the baby's knees to their tummy, followed by touch relaxation and another practice called ‘sun and moon’. It helps to relieve the baby's discomfort and calms the baby down.

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Is there a move that promotes restful sleep and can become part of the bedtime routine?

All the massage strokes we teach will help calm and soothe your baby, and are therefore beneficial to sleep. To further help your little one relax before bedtime, you could try a shortened massage routine using some of your preferred strokes before or after bathtime – just make sure you don’t massage you baby if they have a full tummy!

If you're keen to try baby massage for the first time, or are a mum-to-be and are eager to start massage as soon as your baby is born, JOHNSON'S TOP-TO-TOE® Baby Massage Oil is perfect for newborn skin. The Baby Massage Lotion is also enriched with the same high quality oil, and also suitable from birth, so you can use whatever you and your baby prefer.

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