Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Baby Massage – Touch Me and Help Me Grow

Stroking your baby’s silky skin, meeting her trusting gaze and taking turns at listening to her ‘coos’ and ‘goos’ then responding, telling her, “your tiny toes are like little pink peas,” or “your legs are growing so long and strong,” is more than just a delightful way to enjoy your little one’s company. Massaging your baby incorporates all the elements of parent -child bonding as it stimulates your little one’s senses through skin contact, eye contact and your familiar smell as well as hearing your voice and experiencing a focussed response. This loving interaction and sensory experience is hardwiring your baby’s immature brain for emotional and neurological development: as you touch and talk to your child and share eye contact, you stimulate the development of connections between nerve cells in your baby’s brain that will form foundations for thinking, feeling and learning.
Touch, especially, is a powerful nutrient for your baby’s development – it is the first sense to develop, just days after conception, and is important for a whole lifetime: it stimulates growth hormones as well as hormones that relieve stress and those that encourage bonding and attachment. By consciously spending just a few minutes each day massaging with gentle firm pressure, you can help your baby become calmer and happier. As well as releasing endorphins, those ‘feel good’ hormones that help us all reduce stress, massaging your baby will reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and this can also have positive effects on brain development. There is increasing evidence that high levels of stress hormones are toxic to infant brains and may have lasting effects on your child’s response to stressful experiences. Other studies show that babies with lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in their blood do better at mental and motor ability tests.
There is good news for tired mums too: a few simple strokes can lull your baby into a deeper, more restful sleep. According to Dr Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, “a massage just before bedtime is more effective than rocking at helping your baby fall asleep and stay asleep.” Dr Field’s studies are affirmed by researchers from Warwick Medical School in the UK who looked at nine studies of massage covering a total of 598 infants aged less than six months. These studies showed that babies who were massaged cried less, slept better, and had lower levels of stress hormones compared to infants who did not receive massage. One of the studies also claimed that massage could affect the release of the hormone melatonin which is important in aiding infants’ sleeping patterns.
In another study conducted by Dr Field, premature babies who were massaged gained 47 percent more weight and were discharged from hospital six days earlier than babies in a control group, with follow up studies showing lasting effects on growth and development. For premature babies, the experience of touch is mostly painful as they endure various medical procedures and tubes. Melinda Nott whose baby Pippa, now 14 months and almost walking, was born at 27 weeks, says, “I honestly don’t think Pippa would have been as advanced as she is if I hadn’t massaged her. Gently stroking her legs and back in the humi-crib, then later, kangaroo care (cuddling skin to skin) and massaging her tiny body helped us bond so much more quickly. It also helped me feel more at ease and confident to care for her even though she was very tiny.”
Infant massage is not only good for babies, it is good for parents too. Several studies show that mothers who suffer from postnatal depression improve when they incorporate infant massage into their daily routine, and an Australian study of infant massage and father-baby bonding, found that at 12 weeks old, babies who were massaged (by their fathers) greeted their fathers with more eye contact, smiling, vocalising and touch than those in the control group.
One of the most significant benefits of infant massage is that it can increase your confidence as a parent. According to Tracey Gibney, a midwife and certified instructor with Infant Massage Australia, “when parents regularly massage their babies, they become very aware of the subtle nuances in their baby’s communication, they become more respectful of their baby’s cues and this helps the baby feel secure and calm. After a few weeks of massaging their babies, I often have mothers tell me “I am not so affected by advice from other people any more – I know I am the expert about my baby.”

Monday, 25 March 2013

Bonding With Your Baby Through Massage

Baby Massage – The Benefits of Loving Touch

Although it is difficult to measure the effects of spontaneous touch between parents and babies such as all of the smooching, tickling and blowing of raspberries on tiny tummies, there are a number of studies into early skin to skin contact and baby massage showing amazing benefits for babies. The best news is that you don’t need to buy expensive equipment or make radical changes to your daily workload.
Skin-to-skin contact between you and you baby at birth has been shown to reduce crying, to encourage mother-baby interaction and it keeps your baby warmer as his body temperature becomes stabilised by your own body. It also makes breastfeeding easier as your baby is programmed to seek the breast naturally and this close contact will stimulate the release of oxytocin, the hormone that makes your breast milk flow. If you miss skin to skin cuddles or are separated from your baby immediately after birth, studies of premature babies show that cuddling your little one skin to skin as soon as possible will still have profound effects on bonding, attachment, breastfeeding and your baby’s development.
Of course skin to skin contact is good for baby and you beyond those few precious hours after birth and taking a little time each day to introduce baby massage can be a wonderful time of sharing for either parent. Massaging your baby stimulates all of your little one’s senses through skin contact, eye contact and your familiar smell as well as hearing your voice and experiencing a focussed response. This loving interaction and sensory experience is hardwiring your baby’s immature brain for emotional and neurological development: as you touch and talk to your little one and share eye contact, you stimulate the development of connections between nerve cells in your baby’s brain that will form foundations for thinking, feeling and learning.
There is good news for tired parents too: a few simple strokes can lull your baby into a deeper, more restful sleep. According to Dr Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the Miami University School of Medicine, “a massage just before bedtime is more effective than rocking to help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep.” Dr Field’s studies are affirmed by researchers from Warwick Medical School in the UK who looked at nine studies of massage covering a total of 598 infants aged less than six months. These studies showed that babies who were massaged cried less, slept better, and had lower levels of stress hormones compared to infants who did not receive massage. One of the studies also claimed that massage could affect the release of the hormone melatonin which is important in aiding infants’ sleeping patterns

Introducing Baby Massage

At first just gently stroking your baby’s legs and back is a lovely way to connect. It’s easy too if you have clothing that allows easy access such as nighties or two piece suits, rather than always buttoning your baby from top to toe in one piece suits.
As you introduce more formal massage it is important to choose a time of day that suits you and your baby so you can feel relaxed and your baby is receptive. Your aim is to help your baby develop an association that massage is relaxing and calming. If you introduce a little at a time (you may start with just a leg massage, adding extra strokes gradually over a period of several days or weeks, depending on your baby’s age), with respect to your baby’s cues and tolerance, you will have a valuable tool in your parenting kit that can be used later to help him calm down when he is unsettled.
The best time to introduce massage will often be about twenty minutes or so after a feed when your baby is calm and alert. During the first three months your baby will probably find a massage AND a bath too stimulating so it’s best to massage and bath at separate times or massage one day and bath your baby the next day. If you move the two activities together, try massaging before your baby’s bath so he doesn’t get cold.
Always watch your baby closely to check how he is responding – which strokes does he enjoy? Which body parts are most comfortable for him to have massaged? Are there any spots that seem uncomfortable? Some babies who have had painful procedures such as heel pricks for instance, may grimace as you touch their feet. If this happens, just hold that tiny foot in your hand and talk to your baby, “you are safe now, Mummy will hold your foot if it’s scary and soon you will be able to let me rub your foot again.” If your baby becomes restless or unsettled, it is better to stop massaging than to push him along and create extra stress.
Remember too that massage can make your baby feel thirsty, so whenever he was last fed, if you massage, offer a top up afterwards. A massage, a bath and then a feed make a lovely bed time routine when your baby can manage this.

Do You Have Time To Massage Your Baby?

It can be daunting to think you have to fit another activity into your already busy day, just because it is good for your baby. Relax! You don’t have to set aside an hour to light candles and play gentle music to give your baby a ‘spa experience’. Of course, if you want to do this it is a lovely way to help you both relax and bond but massage and ‘touchy feely’ games (‘round and round the garden’ or ‘this little piggy’) can be easily incorporated into the busiest days, even if you have several littlies.
You can give your baby a leg and foot massage in just a few minutes as you change his nappy or a gentle back rub after a feed – rub him skin to skin rather than ‘burping’ him through his clothing. A tummy massage and a few leg bends will release lower bowel gas or help your baby poo so this can actually save you time if he is uncomfortable (alternate clockwise tummy circles with bending his legs up to his chest or ‘march’ them as you sing ‘the Grand old Duke of York’).
If you have more than one child, you can include your older tots in helping massage the baby or perhaps your toddler could massage a doll while you massage baby, then you could massage him. Or massage could become a family ritual with each parent massaging a little one. The aim here is that one day your little ones will return the favour and give you a lovely back or foot rub!

Giving Your Baby A Mini Massage

Set up a quiet, warm space. Sit comfortably and relax by breathing deeply.
Undress your baby and keep him or her warm, then pour a small amount of natural vegetable oil (such as olive oil) in your palm and rub your hands together as you make eye contact and ask your baby, “would you like a massage?”

Legs and feet (one leg at a time)

Cup your hands and alternating your hands (one supports baby’s ankle as the other strokes) ‘milk’ baby’s leg from hip to ankle. Firmly stroke baby’s sole from heel to toes then roll each toe. Finish by stroking both legs together from hips to ankles.


With one hand following the other, massage baby’s stomach in continuous clockwise circles (following baby’s colon as this is the direction the food travels).


Place both hands on baby’s chest. With fingers flat, stroke up baby’s sternum, around the top of the chest, out to the shoulders, then back down to the bottom of your baby’s sternum, making a heart shape. Then, stroke gently outwards over baby’s shoulders.

Arms and hands

‘Milk’ the arms one at a time, from shoulder to fingertips, then massage baby’s hands by pressing your own thumbs into his palm, before gently squeezing and rolling each finger. If baby’s hands are clenched shut, stroke or kiss the back of his hand to encourage him to open his hand.


With both hands supporting baby’s head, make gentle circles on baby’s scalp. Then, with flat fingers, stroke from the centre of the forehead out to the temples. With your fingertips, massage in small circles around baby’s jaw.


Roll baby over onto his tummy or (if he resists tummy time) place him on his tummy (with his arms forward) across one of your thighs. With one hand on baby’s bottom, swoop your other hand from baby’s shoulders to buttocks.
Finish by lightly ‘combing’ baby’s back with your fingertips, from shoulders downwards, alternating hands. Gradually stroke lighter and slower, then finish by placing your hands on your baby’s back and breathe slowly with your baby.
Enjoy a cuddle with your calm, relaxed baby.


Sunday, 24 March 2013

Breast Refusal and Breastfeeding – When Your Baby Refuses The Breast

A baby’s refusal to suck at the breast is a most distressing problem to a breastfeeding mother. She cannot help feeling upset when her baby screams and turns away from her breast. She may feel that her baby is rejecting her as a mother and doesn’t want her, need her, or even like her very much.
A baby may refuse the breast at some or all feedings, at any age, and his reasons for doing so will vary with his stage of development or even his health at the time. He may suck for a few minutes, then break away with signs of distress and refuse to continue. He may refuse even to begin sucking although he is obviously hungry.
Sometimes, a baby does not actually refuse but is very fussy and difficult to feed. He may be the kind of baby who seems to be very unwilling to start sucking and takes a long time to get going, but once he has started, feeds well. A fussy baby can seem to receive little satisfaction from feeding. He sucks for a short while and then breaks away, finishing his feed after a series of stops and starts. He may be easily distracted and restless during the feed, perhaps pushing away from his mother with his fists or his feet. He stops as soon as his hunger is satisfied and may remain restless and fidgety afterwards.

When managing a fussy feeder or a baby who is refusing to breastfeed, it is important to remain calm and patient, handling your baby gently. If you are both on edge, try taking deep breathes similar to that which you may have used during labour or when trying to calm or meditate. The deep breathing helps slow your own breathing and make it more regular which can help calm everyone, concentrate on staying relaxed, use soothing music, rock your baby gently or carry him around in a sling. This relaxation will help your milk flow readily so your baby will get milk once he latches on.
If your baby is quite unsettled, cross or crying or if you are feeling angry and upset, you may find it helps to try again when you are both feeling calmer. In the meantime a cuddle or a game may distract your baby or a walk outside may relax you both. This is the time when your partner (or a friend or relative) may be able to step in and give you both a break.

Things to do to get your baby on the breast

  • Be as patient and calm as you can, even though you may be feeling frustrated or impatient. Forcing your baby to feed is likely to make the situation worse. If he has just been refusing the breast and is upset, distract him by doing something completely different – a walk outdoors, looking at toys, singing a nursery rhyme. When he has settled down he may be eased on to the breast, or he may be happier just being cuddled.
  • Walk around with your baby in an upright position against your body with her head level with your nipple. Walk and feed simultaneously. You could try putting your baby in an Australian Breastfeeding Association baby sling but remember to have your bra undone so that her face is touching the skin of your breast and she can find your nipple. The sling will need to be worn lower than normal for this purpose.
  • Try a completely different feeding position: your baby tucked under your arm (twin style); or lying down on a bed next to your baby with no body contact – this is especially good if it is very hot, or your baby is sensing your tension; or lying down with your baby cuddled in close next to you.
  • Feeding your baby while you are both in the bath may help. You may want to have someone available to help you lift your baby in and out of the bath.
  • Try breastfeeding baby after his bath when he is warm and relaxed (if he likes baths).
  • You could try playing with your baby on the floor while you are bare from the waist up. After some time gradually offer your breast.
  • Anticipate your baby’s waking time and lift her to feed while still sleepy – you may slip in extra night feeds this way.
  • Try to soothe baby with a dummy. Walking, singing and rocking while baby sucks the dummy may gradually soothe him so you can gently put your baby to the breast while removing the dummy. It may be necessary to start a very hungry baby sucking on a bottle with a small amount of expressed breastmilk, e.g. 30 ml, then gently replace it with the breast.
  • Some mothers, whose babies have become accustomed to a bottle, have found that putting ice wrapped in a flannel on the nipple or tickling the nipple and areola makes it easier for the baby to grasp. Alternatively, you may use a nipple shield to begin a feed, slipping if off quickly and putting your baby back to the breast once the milk is flowing and she is sucking happily.
  • Feed in a rocking chair.
  • Express some milk into your baby’s open mouth to encourage him.
  • Spend five minutes or so before the feed massaging your baby’s naked body to relax her, if she is receptive to this.
  • Try singing to your baby – he probably won’t mind if it is the same few lines over and over.
  • Try playing some favourite relaxing background music.
  • Once you get your baby on to the breast, it may help to provide an instant milk reward. This can be done with a nursing supplementer. This allows baby to receive additional milk at the breast whilst stimulating your milk supply by his sucking. If your milk supply continues to be low or your let-down slow or your baby is a ‘poor’ sucker, you may like to discuss with an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor the possibility of using a supplementer.
 Sometimes you may never discover why he did refuse. However, there are some babies who cannot be persuaded to return to the breast. If that is the case for you, it is important to remember that your baby is not rejecting you and that you will soon find other ways of relating to each other.

Feeding Your Baby – Is It Taking Too Much Time?

It can feel reassuring to have specific instructions about when to feed your baby, especially when everything about caring for a baby is new and uncertain to you. However, when you are expected to time how many minutes you breastfeed, watch the hours between feeds or count how many feeds your baby has in a day, with the ultimate goal being how many hours you can make your baby sleep, you will soon see feeding your baby as a chore. As resentment brews about how much time your baby is taking up, it can seem an attractive option to prop your baby with a bottle in the hope that your life will become more efficient.
Despite claims by various people that a feeding schedule will positively influence your baby’s sleep patterns, in most cases there are risks to be considered: some strict regimes have been associated with breast milk supply failure, poor infant weight gain and failing to thrive infants. Breastfeeding according to a schedule may seem to work at first but many women who use strict feeding schedules in the early weeks find that their milk supply dwindles and their baby may be weaned by about three months. By restricting feeds or repeatedly spacing them out with dummies, you may limit the development of the hormonal process that enhances ongoing milk production. This translates to: early and frequent breastfeeding will promote a continuing milk supply, which means that your baby will get lots of milk so he is less likely to wake up often to be fed.
The amount of breast milk you produce and how much your baby drinks is influenced by other factors including your baby’s stomach size, and the milk storage capacity of your own breasts. At first, your baby’s tummy is only the size of his tiny fist and breast milk is very quickly digested so your baby will need frequent feeds, at least in the early weeks. It is common for a breastfed baby to need feeding from several times in one hour to about every two hours at first. It is also common for babies to need a ‘cluster’ of feeds closer together in the evening.
Ultrasound studies by biochemist Dr Peter Hartmann and colleagues at the University of Western Australia have shown that breast milk storage capacity can vary up to three times as much between individual women (this is not necessarily related to breast size and doesn’t influence milk production ability). This means that while some women who have a large milk storage capacity will be able to feed their babies enough milk to go three or four hours between feeds (providing their baby has a big enough stomach), other women will need to feed their babies more often. For women with a smaller milk storage capacity, a rigid feeding schedule could result in a hungry, unsettled baby and a mother who questions her ability to produce enough milk when really, it is the schedule that is inappropriate, not the mother’s feeding ability.
Milk production and infant intake are also influenced by the fat content of your milk and the degree of breast emptying at any given feeding. According to Dr Hartmann’s research, an empty breast will make milk more quickly while a full breast will make milk more slowly. This means that if your baby sucks vigorously and ‘empties’ your breasts (because you make milk continuously your breasts will never be completely empty), production speeds up and if he doesn’t take much milk from the breast at a feeding, your breasts will get the message to make less milk. If your baby seems to go on a feeding binge at any time, this isn’t an indicator that you are ‘losing your milk’ but that you will need to take it easy and feed your baby more frequently for a few days so your breasts get the message to produce more milk. By responding to your baby’s signals, in a few days’ time, he will space out his feeds again.
Babies regulate the type of milk they need by the way they suck. The first type (foremilk) will quench their thirst, which is why they often have short, frequent feeds on hot days, just as we sip from our water bottles. Hunger will be satisfied by longer sucking periods when baby gets the fatty hind milk which is squeezed down into your ducts by the reflex known as ‘letdown’; this is usually felt as a ‘tingly’ sensation in your breasts and accompanied by leaking from the breast that your baby is not sucking from. Letting your baby decide how long he needs to feed and letting him finish the first breast before switching sides, rather than limiting him to an arbitrary number of minutes each side, will ensure he gets the rich fatty hind milk – and will satisfy him, so he sleeps longer.
There will be times when your baby has a growth spurt and will need to feed more often to match his increasing appetite. Babies who are unwell also often increase their feeding frequency. Researchers now believe that this not only provides comfort, but also increases the baby’s intake of antibodies and immune factors through the mother’s breast milk.
Bottle-feeding, whether you are giving your baby formula or expressed breast milk, can be as time-consuming as breastfeeding, especially if your baby feeds slowly as some very little babies do. The solution to a slow or sleepy feeding baby is not to force him to stay awake by brutal means such as sponging him with wet face washers or by cutting a bigger hole in the teat – this poses a choking risk and most certainly would cause discomfort and distress. Rather, follow your baby’s lead and perhaps offer smaller, more frequent feeds. As he grows stronger, he will find it easier to stay awake and will become a more efficient feeder naturally.
Whether you are bottle or breastfeeding, by trying to see this time as an expression of your love for your baby, you will be able to appreciate the rewards of these intimate moments – breathing in your baby’s delicious smell, stroking his silky skin as his warm little body snuggles against your own, and gazing into his trusting eyes as they meets yours – and you will cherish this precious time long after he has outgrown your lap.

What your new baby expects from the birth to going home

As new mothers, we expect to parent the way we have learned to parent – and there are many different styles. But a baby’s “expectations” are not learned. They are the instincts and reflexes of all babies around the world, and they are the same as they were thousands of years ago. Babies are not helpless. They are highly skilled for the world they “expect” to be born into. When we change their world, we make life harder for them. You may not want to live in a cave with your baby, but it helps to know what your baby “expects” the start of life to be like.

During the Birth

During the birth, she expects not to have to deal with drugs. The drug that affects you for only a few hours can cause her problems for days, making it hard for her to nurse with normal efficiency and frequency. If you’re trying to decide about a medication, remember that your decision can affect much more than the birth.

Immediately After the Birth

Immediately after the birth, your baby expects to stay with you. After he spends some time next to your skin, getting used to breathing and seeing and hearing, he’ll begin to think about his first meal, and he can actually crawl “commando style” right up to your breast, find your nipple, latch on, and have a long nursing, with no help from anyone! If he is taken away from you to be washed and measured before his first nursing, or if he has drugs to cope with, he may not be able to complete those first activities as well, and your own instinctive responses to him will be changed. Breastfeeding works just fine under all kinds of birth circumstances, but it is easiest and most thrilling for both of you if your time together is unbroken until after that first nursing.

After Her First Feed

After her first feed, she expects a long sleep at your side or in your arms. She has heard your heart and breathing and has felt your warmth all her life, and she will actually have a steadier heart and breathing rate herself if she stays in touch with you. She may want to sleep longer than the hospital staff would like her to. They want to make sure that everyone’s plumbing works before you go home, so you may have to fight nature a bit to encourage frequent nursings at first. But she’ll soon be waking on her own, nursing, and letting go when she’s satisfied, just like any other baby mammal.

At Home

At home he expects to stay close to you. All mammal babies have some way to protect themselves: speed, camouflage, safety in numbers. Human babies protect themselves by being held. He’ll feel safest and calmest when he’s next to you, where the tigers can’t eat him and the ants can’t crawl on him! He expects to set his own pace – probably nursing more often than you imagined – finishing one breast before starting the other, and perhaps not wanting both breasts each time. He expects you to respond quickly to his sounds, and he expects not to have to cry for what he needs. He expects to be near you at night as well as during the day, and will probably sleep better with you next to him.
Your baby “expects” to be in your arms and “expects” you to listen to him, not to a clock or an instruction book. If you meet his expectations, you’ll have a happier baby. And that means a happier life together.