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The benefits of Developmental Baby Massage

The natural birth process is the equivalent of the strongest massage a baby is likely to ever receive during the course of a lifetime. The depth of contractions during labour, and the length of time through which they are applied, constitute a profound introduction to the benefits of baby massage.

Peter Walker

Touch is your newborn’s first language, it is their prime means of communication and plays an essential role in forming of the parent-child relationship. Massaging your baby allows you to express emotional affection and to fulfil your baby’s need for physical contact.
The benefits of massage are both emotional and physical, so your baby will achieve all-round well-being. Please read ‘why touch is important’ a NatalChoices blog for further information.

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Developmental Baby Massage

Stage 1 – Emotional Intelligence and a Loving Touch from Birth to 8 Weeks will focuses on:

  • Developing a loving touch, secure holding, and safe tummy time.
  • Promoting overall good reciprocity to facilitate mother-infant bonding and attachment.
  • Remedial touch techniques to relieve intra-uterine and difficult birth experience
  • Holding and stroking techniques prior to full massage to relieve physiological flexion and abdominal tension and promoting safe tummy time.
  • Techniques to release the phrenic nerve and diaphragm and improve respiration.

Developmental Baby Massage Stage 2 from 8 weeks to crawling will focus on:

  • Massage – Techniques and strokes are demonstrated to parents using a teacher’s doll, with emphasis on loving touch, and responding to baby’s cues and communication through the class.
  • Infant Development – “Nature’s milestones”, joint flexibility, muscular strength and coordination improving circulatory, respiratory rhythms, back strength and overall muscle tone.
  • The Enteric (“Baby Brain”) and the Central Nervous Systems.​

Therapeutic play to relieve stiff and floppy baby syndromes focusing on:

  • Early intervention and physical enablement
  • Motivation and movement cranial neuroplasticity
  • Gravity and centralised movement
  • Remedial touch massage and movement to relieve “Stiff and Floppy” baby syndrome.

Infant Balance and Good Posture focusing on:

  • Primary preparation for sitting and standing using gravity assisted techniques for stronger structural foundations focusing on the transitions from sitting positions to squatting, crawling, standing and eventually walking
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Relief of colic

If your baby is suffering from colic and has been diagnosed by your doctor, there are a number of things that you may wish to try to make things more comfortable for both you and your baby. There are a couple of Developmental Baby Massage techniques that have proven to be extremely effective, especially when used together.

This simple holding technique allows you to hold your baby in both arms, while gently placing your hand across your baby’s tummy to help them relax.

If you relax your baby’s tummy you will relax your baby. You may also gently pat the diaphragm and rock your baby gently from the hips down while holding them in this position.

Tiger in the Tree can be most beneficial when your baby is at their most distressed. Showing your partner will really help you as you can then take it in turns to comfort your baby in this position. Because the baby is turned away from the breast, breastfed babies will not ‘root’ for milk. However if your baby fails to respond to this initially, you may first want to try a light feed. Oftentimes food can be a great source of comfort as well as a source of nourishment for your baby.

The Cranial Sacral technique

Sometimes vaginal birth can cause compression in the neck and shoulders of your baby as they come through the birth canal. This can result in unexplained episodes of distress after the birth.
When your baby is calm and at their best, a ‘Cranial Sacral’ technique as described by Peter Walker can be of great benefit and relief to them.

You can do this with your partner, or you can do this alone and just let your baby relax their arms and legs themselves. This technique is taught in our Developmental Baby Massage classes.

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Recommended Reading:

Peter Walker (2019) ‘Colic’TheBabiesWebsite

NatalChoices (2019) ‘BabyNatal Developmental Baby Massage’

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