Baby massage is the ideal first group activity for your newborn
When I was pregnant I kept reading about baby massage classes which seemed to be a really popular first class to do with your baby.
I had reservations as I wasn’t sure I would actually enjoy baby massage – because what I imagined the classes to be like was completely wrong, and in retrospect sounds quite funny. But as a first time mum who had never been to a mum and baby group before, I had no idea what to expect!
I thought that the class would take place in a classroom (where else?) with rows of women standing at massage tables, with their baby laying on top, being massaged in a more gentle version of the Swedish or aromatherapy technique that you might have yourself in a spa. I wasn’t sure I particularly wanted to do that, or that I would enjoy it – so if that’s how you imagine baby massage classes to be, then I want to tell you that you are completely wrong!
The mini moo and I started baby massage when she was eight weeks old and admittedly she slept through part of the first couple of sessions – but from about ten weeks we were off and both enjoying every minute.
I do a class run by a lovely lady called Jessica Barnaschone, which takes place in a function room at a church – as you walk in, relaxing music is playing and coloured lights play across the ceiling of the darkened room.
We sit in a circle, laying our babies on their backs on a mat (you bring your own blanket to put over the mat). Jessica provides a bubble wand and a couple of small toys including a mirror to keep babies occupied but I’ve never needed these – baby S is fascinated by the coloured lights swirling on the ceiling that are beaming from a projector. In fact I sometimes think this is her favourite part of baby massage!
We begin each class by introducing ourselves and Jessica runs through some of the benefits of baby massage and asks new parents to the group to do a patch test with her locally sourced organic massage oil. Then we go through a variety of massage strokes, some of which are done as we sing nursery rhymes, and others spell out the words ‘I love you’ or shapes like sunglasses. We massage certain areas in turn, sometimes turning babies over on to their fronts to massage their backs and bottoms, but often keeping them laying on their backs. It’s a really nice, sweet thing to do with your baby, involving eye contact, skin to skin contact and hopefully lots of smiles.
In addition, each week Jessica chooses a different theme for a selection of sensory toys and books that are placed in the middle of the room, for babies to play with once the massage is over.
Benefits of baby massage
Other benefits of baby massage are that certain strokes can help reduce constipation or help with teething pain or digestion. Both baby S and I find it very relaxing and she definitely enjoys it!
Some baby massage classes are run as fixed length courses of four or five weeks; Jessica’s are continuous which I prefer, as the idea isn’t that parents learn something over a few weeks then stop coming (though of course you are encouraged to practice what you have learned at home), but that it’s an ongoing activity that you can drop along to (the classes are pay as you go, and cost £8.50 a time) to meet other parents and spend an hour doing something a bit different with your baby.
Many activities that are advertised as being suitable for certain ages were a little premature in my opinion – e.g. certain classes I’ve seen and been to say they are suitable from three months but even at four months baby S wasn’t able to really participate. But baby massage really is something you can do from early on (the recommendation is usually that babies should be at least six weeks old) and in my opinion the best first class you can do, when you are just starting to want to get out of the house and go along to groups. Baby S loves her baby massage class, and so do I!