Before I was pregnant, I was hearing of all these groups and activities new parents got involved in – clubs, classes, coffee mornings, courses etc – Baby Sensory, Baby Massage, Baby Yoga, Water Babies, Baby Ballet, Aqua Tots, Tumble Tots, Baby this and Baby that!
It all seems a little overwhelming, as I wanted to throw myself in to motherhood and select a few weekly commitments – not only for Henry’s development and social interaction, but to keep me sane with some kind of routine and “lifestyle” and to embrace being a mummy. Getting out of the house alone in those first few weeks feels rewarding and although it’s nerve wracking, it’s actually really nice to meet other new parents, all in the same hormonal, tired and occasional “baby-won’t-stop-crying” boat.
Henry suffered with reflux during his first few weeks. He didn’t often cry in pain, but he did struggle to keep milk down. I actually became paranoid and self conscious in front of others because I felt embarrassed when he’d bring up a little or a lot of milk in front of them – especially in front of those who were a little grossed out by it which made me feel sorry for Henry and pretty low myself that I was struggling to keep his reflux under control having tried different feeding techniques and even different formulas – considering the fact I was still in early days of motherhood and thus very tired and emotional.
Having a reflux baby can make those early weeks harder than the “norm” (I don’t believe there is actually a “norm”!) and I’m sure those who experienced (or still are experiencing) the same or other issues, such as colic, would agree.
Someone told me baby massage was beneficial for many reasons, reflux being one of them, so I looked in to it and found a local lady who performs 4-week long baby massage courses in Essex.
Now a friend of mine (this mummy networking provides a feel-good factor as well as confidence and a sense of community), Cat Chamberlain of Retreat Petite Baby Massage in Essex tells me why she got in to teaching baby massage, the benefits and what to expect from her classes .
1. Why should new parents consider doing a baby massage course? What are the benefits?
The benefits of baby massage are endless. Not only for baby but for the caregiver who is giving the massage too! Practicing massage produces the body’s happy hormone ‘oxytocin’ which helps to combat post natal depression and build on the bond between you and baby. This is a huge benefit and one that came in very useful for me second time around.
Baby massage is also hugely beneficial for premature babies or those born with a low birth weight as it stimulates the bodies systems and organs which in turn results in improved weight gain.
It is very successful at helping to relieve symptoms of colic, reflux and constipation and many mums like to try a holistic approach before using medicines on babies.
Massage helps promote calmness and relaxation and when used as part of a nightly routine can help to induce deeper sleep patterns, helps to develop flexibility, balance, coordination and can ease growing pains.
2. When should new mothers start a baby massage course? Is there a minimum age for the baby?
The sooner you start the better! Touch is the first of your babies senses to develop when growing in your womb and therefore the most mature of the senses on the outside. Building on this can really help your baby discover their own bodies and the environment around them.
Classes are recommended from 6 weeks old, but as long as there are no health issues I am happy for younger babies to attend as the earlier you massage your baby the more benefits you’ll reap. If your baby does suffer from colic or reflux, 6 weeks can seem a very long time to wait, so if parents are ready I do try to encourage starting a course asap.
Sometimes mums aren’t ready to attend classes for a while after baby has arrived so it’s important you follow your own body and go at your own pace too. I have mothers joining when babies are 3, 4, 5, 6 months old +, however, from experience I would try and start a baby massage course before they are on the move too much, otherwise you risk babies rolling and crawling all over the place not giving the parent the opportunity to practise at the session.
3. Why should mothers attend a course, rather than just searching for videos online?
You cannot put a value on face-to-face learning with a person there to answer your specific questions.
The added benefit to my classes being capped to 8 babies is to allow the course to be small and intimate, as I want parents to feel relaxed and comfortable enough to share advice, tips and experiences with each other and to feel they can ask questions openly.
The social interaction your baby gets from going to groups is invaluable too as well as the opportunity for parents to make friends during what can sometimes be a lonely and overwhelming time.
Googling videos is great and I would recommend to do this in the lead up to your course but as a substitute for attending a course it simply doesn’t compare.
4. Are there any dos and don’ts regarding baby massage?
There are lots of dos, but not many dont’s. It’s important to make your massage times personal and tailored to both of yours and your baby’s needs. The biggest “do” is follow your babies cues if they are not enjoying it, then you most definitely won’t enjoy it either. Simply stop and wait for a time that your baby will be more receptive to receiving a massage!
I go through all the hints and tips in the first week of my course to help ensure you and baby get the most out of your massage sessions.
5. What can parents expect from your baby massage course?
You will learn some amazing techniques for soothing and settling your baby as well as natural ways to combat many infant ailments over the 4 weeks.
I give everybody a folder which details all the strokes taught and a bottle of baby massage oil. Many of the strokes I teach are beneficial for use on yourself or partner too so not only baby gets to enjoy your new skills!
You can expect a safe judgement free environment with lots of like minded mums and dads. I even buy my students tea and coffee after our first week so you can enjoy the immediate chill out after your little ones massage and get to know your group of potential new mummy friends.
6. Tell us a bit about yourself…
I grew up uncertain about the career path I wanted to take, but I knew I always was destined to be a mother. After nearly 8 years as airline cabin crew I decided it was time to settle down and I retrained as a massage and beauty therapist gaining VTCT qualifications in NVQ 2 and 3. Having a massage is my absolute favourite thing to do and now I have the perfect excuse as it’s all in the name of research!
I now have two children Eva and Betsy and have successfully incorporated baby massage into our nightly routines from very early on. Betsy has Down’s syndrome which means that she has a lower muscle tone and I believe baby massage has played wonders in helping to develop her strength and mobility.
7. Why did you go in to teaching baby massage?
I love the holistic view to health and wellbeing and after finally becoming a mum to my eldest daughter Eva who is now 3, I jumped at the opportunity to take her to a baby massage course. From the first session I was hooked and Eva loved being massaged.
I finally felt a “penny dropping” moment, as this combines my two biggest passions – massage and babies – and it was an obvious choice to do an additional course to qualify me as a baby massage instructor.
After setting up my own company, I realised how much I love meeting so many beautiful babies as well as all the parents/grandparents/siblings – everyone is welcome to my classes.
What I love most is meeting so many inspiring and wonderful women who are finding their feet with their new additions and their new way of life. We all have such different stories to tell and can gain so much strength from each other. I love when women empower each other.
Sometimes during the classes Henry would need feeding or changing, but that didn’t matter. Cat’s classes are so relaxed that anything goes, baby comes first and if I needed to feed him I would make sure I still paid attention and practised on him later that day.
I’m so glad I took Henry to baby massage. Being a qualified beauty therapist myself and working with Neal’s Yard Remedies I understand the benefits of massage as well as the benefits of a holistic approach to certain conditions, i.e. reflux, colic etc.
I perform massage on him most days, even if just a quick 5 minutes after every bath time without fail. He’s been sleeping through the night (on and off!) since 12 weeks old and I often wonder if it’s helped by his bed time routine of a warm bath followed by a massage and always using Neal’s Yard Remedies products for babies which contain gentle organic ingredients (and thus non irritable) such as lavender and chamomile which are soothing and calming.
Even when Henry is constipated, I now know the tummy massage movements to help move things along (and yes the technique works haha!). Also when Henry has a cough, I look up the techniques Cat gave us in the folders on our course, and then massage his chest area to help clear it. Doing the baby massage course has been incredibly worthwhile.
The Neal’s Yard baby massage oil is great for baby massage. It’s 100% organic and the gentle oils nourish and soften baby’s skin. I’ve said before that Neal’s Yard products cured Henry’s eczema, so you know you are getting products that are kind yet effective.
To view all of the mother and baby products in the Neal’s Yard Remedies range, click here… Remember that many products available on the high street and in our supermarkets when placed on the skin are absorbed in to the blood stream, therefore it is incredibly worthwhile thinking about this when using certain products on your baby. Products containing high amounts of synthetics, fragrance, parabens and chemicals are not going to do us or your baby any good.
Cat’s baby massage classes currently run on a 4-week basis at Walton Hall Farm. The price for 4 weeks is £40 and includes detailed handouts of all massage steps taught.
To book or to find out more information contact Cat directly on 07855554968 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find Retreat Petite baby massage on Facebook at facebook.com/retreatpetitemassage.
Cat also offers home visits for private sessions for small groups or for a 1-2-1 lesson.
Thank you Cat for taking part in this Q&A and I hope it’s been of interest to you all reading this. Any questions or comments for me or Cat please leave them in the comments section below or contact us via our social media accounts.