Sometimes I’m asked why I teach baby massage courses - surely it’s not that hard to give your baby a massage! There is some truth in this statement – touch is something we all do naturally and while there is certainly no one right way to massage your baby, many parents find they learn things at a massage course that help with parenting and baby care in general.
A key part of the First Touch infant massage course is learning to understand what the babies are saying. Babies use body language to communicate and I talk to parents about knowing the best times for interaction and play, when baby is overstimulated and even the best times for sleep. We start by asking the babies’ permission before we massage them and as they tell us what they enjoy, introduce more strokes to more parts of the body. Of course the babies don’t answer with words, but they do give many signals with their eyes, their breathing and their hands. We talk about those signs and parents learn to observe their own baby and can then respond to what their baby needs.
In addition to learning the massage strokes, we have an opportunity to talk about the benefits of massage and how you might incorporate massage into your lifestyle, different oils and what to consider when choosing oils and how to alter the strokes as your baby grows and becomes more mobile.
The classes are baby focused and structured so that babies can have a feed, cuddle, sleep, nappy change or even a cry if needed. When we meet the needs of the babies, things run much more smoothly – I have dolls available for parents to practice on when their own baby just doesn’t want to play!
I always think the best part of attending a massage class is that you get to meet other parents and share your experiences. It’s a great excuse to get out of the house and do something that benefits you as well as your baby!
Hot weather tips for babies
I love a sunburnt country …. but when the temperature rises into the mid-high thirties and beyond, the heat quickly becomes tiresome, especially with babies and young children. Hot weather affects us all differently, but it’s important to be aware of how to take care in extreme heat.
You might find that your baby seems fussy in the hot weather and sometimes feeding patterns change. Many babies will feed more often – hot weather makes us all thirsty, babies too. Breastfed babies will often want to feed more frequently and some mums notice their baby has lots of quick little feeds rather than long feeds. Young babies who are exclusively breastfed don’t need any extra fluids in hot weather. Your breastmilk will quench your baby’s thirst and ensure he stays well hydrated.
Sometimes the heat can make babies extra sleepy and you might have to wake a small baby to ensure she doesn’t become dehydrated.
Offer older babies and toddlers water in between feeds and meals – keeping a sippy cup, drink bottle or similar nearby is a good reminder for everyone to drink more often, including mum.
Find a cool place to feed – a cool spot under the air conditioner or in front of a fan – you might even try lying down on the bed.
Place a towel or damp cloth between you and your baby – it will stop you feeling so hot and sticky holding your baby against your skin at feed times.
It can still be hot when the sun goes down so think about how you will keep cool overnight. If your bedrooms have air conditioning or a fan you’ll probably sleep quite comfortably. If not, consider moving to a cooler room in the house – perhaps on mattresses on the floor, or purchasing a fan that can be moved from room to room.
Take care when going out in the car – hot buckles on car seats can burn! Cover buckles with a towel or blanket, you might even take a frozen ice brick or cold pack to keep in the car to ensure the car seat isn’t too hot on your return. Never, ever leave a child in the car.
A lukewarm or cool (not cold) bath is very soothing for babies and toddlers on a hot day, and lots of fun too. Dress your little one lightly – a nappy and singlet is probably all that’s needed on a very hot day.
Save the outdoor activities for early in the morning, or evening and stay indoors during the hottest part of the day. Be aware of how to keep your child safe in the sun; babies and children are especially vulnerable to sunburn and the damaging effects of the sun.
Remember to take care of your needs too - keep well hydrated, dress lightly and keep out of the sun as much as possible.
At last daylight saving has begun! More daylight at the end of the day, coupled with warmer weather means the opportunity for later outdoor play, evening walks, a bit more gardening. But for families with toddlers and young children, it can also make bedtime a bit more challenging as parents battle with a little one who doesn’t want to sleep yet because the sun hasn’t gone to bed. Even parents of babies who are too young to know whether it’s dark might find baby just won’t settle at the usual time. Take a deep breath and remember your baby is probably still ready for bed at the same time – we’ve just changed that time by moving time forward by an hour, so an eight o’clock bedtime might now be nine.
Try bringing bedtime forward gradually, in 10 or fifteen minute intervals every few days or so. It might take a little while but many parents find within a few weeks the family has settled back down, or adjusted to a new routine.
Do you have a bedtime ritual? Following a similar pattern in the lead-up to bedtime helps your little one know that it is time to go to sleep. Rituals can be adapted to suit your baby or toddler and your family, and will change somewhat as your child’s needs change.
Talk to older toddlers and preschoolers about the time. Show them what the clock looks like when it’s time for bed, or relate bedtime to another activity – after dinner we have a bath, put on our pjs, read stories and then go to sleep.
You might even decide that a later bedtime is a positive thing – many working parents enjoy extra time together as a family. And one of the best bonuses of a later bedtime can be a later morning wake-up – a blessing if you have a child who’s on the go before 6am!
It's easy to be confused by the range of information and advice so freely given about new born babies and sleep. Very young babies depend on their parents for everything as they adjust to life outside the womb, including sleep. These really simple tips can really help new when you are struggling with the tiredness that comes with having a new baby in the house:
Rachel presents a two hour session - Learn about babies and sleep in Mildura, in the last week of every month.
It is suitable for parents and carers of babies from 4 weeks of age.
For more information, please contact Rachel
Rachel is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Certified Infant Massage Instructor (CIMI) and has undertaken training in infant sleep, child development and nutrition. She is also an accredited provider of primary care Triple P (positive parenting program) and volunteers with the Australian Breastfeeding Association.