Is your baby crying, tired, sick or teething? Baby massage could be the secret weapon you've been searching for!
Ever find yourself absent-mindedly stroking the back of your baby's neck and marvelling at its softness? You have a powerful instinct to caress your baby, and not without reason touch is vital to his wellbeing, and that's why baby massage is so good for him.
"Massage has the same benefits for babies as for anyone else," says Sally Cranfield, baby massage teacher.
"It induces very deep relaxation and causes the body to release the hormone oxytocin, which has a calming effect. This can help your baby get to sleep, and also to sleep more deeply, so he won't wake so often."
Massage also boosts your baby's immune system and can be used to deal with specific problems, such as colic.
"The tradition of baby massage is strong in other cultures, but was lost to ours as baby care became more medicalised," says Sally.
"Now we're rediscovering this lovely way of exploring the bond between parent and baby." It's a great way for you to get close to your little one and spend quality time together, and will strengthen the special bond between you.
Tips and techniques
Ideally your baby should be fed, winded and comfortable, and the room should be nice and warm before you undress him for a massage. Have a nappy and a towel handy in case of little accidents, and lay him on a changing mat or a thick, folded towel.
Wind and colic
Massaging your baby's tummy clockwise, in a circular movement centred on his belly button, can ease digestion. Don't press down.
With your baby lying on his back, you can stroke his head, chest and tummy to calm him and help him settle to sleep.
Squeezing and stroking your baby's hands or feet is a good way to soothe the irritability that teething can cause and you can do it anywhere.
The good oil
Grape seed, sweet almond and olive oil are all suitable you'll find them in health food shops or you can just use plain baby oil.
If you like, and provided your baby is over two-months-old, you can add one of the following aromatherapy oils to your base oil, using three drops of essential oil to two tablespoons of base oil.
* Lavender: Soothing, antiseptic and a decongestant
* Eucalyptus: A powerful decongestant, good when your baby has a cold
* Camomile: Calming and soothing, can be helpful in teething.
* Rose otto: Good for dry skin
Where can you do it?
The beauty of baby massage is that it's easy to do at home, but if you want to learn more techniques and meet other like-minded mums a baby massage class is a good place to start. Adult education centres run regular courses ask your GP or at your early childhood centre for local classes.
Massage is suitable for almost all babies, but don't massage him if:
* He's overtired, unwell or has a fever
* He's just been fed it might make him sick
* He has any cuts, bruises or skin complaints, like eczema
* He cries or seems upset by it
* He's had immunisations in the last 48 hours
* He's had surgery or has any broken bones.
It worked for us
"I started baby massage hoping to learn to calm and comfort Charlie, who was very colicky. We both enjoyed it and I was delighted that it helped with Charlie's wind and her constipation problems, too.
"It soon became a part of his bedtime routine. I'm about to start massage classes with my second baby, and I'm looking forward to some quiet bonding time with her as she seems to get less quality time with me than my first child did."
Deborah Helliar, mum to Charlie, three, and Annelise, 10 weeks