It’s February and love is in the air. If you’re not too busy scouring card shops for the perfect way to express your feelings towards your partner – (‘You smell of baby sick, but I love you’), then have a think about the powers of positive touch and how you could work them into family life.
Research shows that as little as ten minutes a day of positive touch in the form of massage or stroking can be hugely beneficial to babies and children. In the course of a recent study by a team at the University of Warwick, researchers discovered that infants who were regularly massaged, cried less, slept better and had lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol than infants who did not receive massage.
There are expert practitioners and classes like mine around the country specializing in baby massage, but if attending a session is not a possibility it’s very easy to learn some basic strokes and get started at home:
What to do:
You’ll need an oil which will keep baby’s skin moist and supple but with no or very little perfume. Avoid oils which contain nuts. Choose a warm, darkened room and lie baby on a towel on a changing mat (in case of little accidents). Remove any jewellery and pour some oil into your hand, then rub your hands together to ensure the oil is nice and warm before applying it to baby’s skin.
With baby on his or her back, hold baby’s ankle securely but not too tightly. Wrap your other hand around the top of baby’s thigh and then slide it downwards to the ankle in a ‘milking’ action. Repeat using slow, flowing strokes and then change legs and do the same.
Again, with baby on his or her back, cradle baby’s foot in both hands and stroke your thumbs (first one, then the other) over the sole from the heel to the toes in a continuous, flowing motion. Gently squeeze and rub each toe.
Turn baby on to his or her tummy with the head turned to the side. Place your fingers on baby’s shoulders and then using a stroking motion (rather than applying pressure) run your fingers from baby’s shoulders down the back to the hips, taking care to avoid the spine. Repeat the same stroke down the arms from shoulder to hands.
Never too old…
It’s worth remembering that the power of touch is good for all of us, whatever our age. Younger children will feel safe, relaxed and happy as they snuggle close with a parent and while your tweens and teens may balk at being given a hug – heck, they may even insist you walk several paces behind them in the street, most will respond with enthusiasm to the offer of a spa-like massage or foot rub to help them wind down.
If you needed any other motivation, then surely the fact that the action of massage releases oxytocin should be enough to persuade you to reach for the oil. Oxytocin is the happy hormone, so not only does it make the person receiving the touch feel good, but also the giver. It’s a win, win situation!