Do you want to try an easy way to connect to your clients and help them connect to their new baby? Bonding is a term thrown around a lot and we all know it sounds like a good thing, of course we want to bond, right? But other than just being present and engaged what does bonding really mean and how do you do it intentionally? An easy, no brainer activity to teach your clients is basic infant massage. The benefits of massage to both the giver and receiver are well documented, which include: stress reduction, brain development, oxytocin release, and body awareness. One really cool thing to help us understand the value of massage is to remember that after an egg fertilizes it separates into three layers. The ectoderm layer becomes the skin, nervous system, and brain. In other words, your skin is the outside of your brain, and your brain is the inside of your skin. It’s no wonder we feel such a deep skin/brain connection and have such strong cravings for touch!
You can teach your clients some simple techniques for creating a ritual of massage with their newborn. Give them some ideas of how to set up the environment; a warm room, a towel to lay undressed baby on, and they can choose to use organic cornstarch or an oil that would be safe for baby to get in their mouth (coconut oil is always a favorite choice.) The best time to do a massage is after baby is fed and rested, in an awake-alert state, perhaps before bath time. It’s important to stop and respect their energy if they lose interest, don’t force them to finish the massage. You may want a doll to help demonstrate on, but if you are not a licensed massage therapist yourself you should not do any actual instruction or demonstration on baby yourself. Alternatively, you can have a handful of saved quality video instructions online to show your clients rather than you demonstrating on a doll. Viewing videos yourself several times and practicing at home before teaching your clients will increase your confidence and knowledge.
Show your clients different types of touch that can be used such as a gentle twisting, a “milking” motion, a slight pull from joint to joint (such as holding at the knee and giving a slight tug at the ankle), or a compression/squeeze. Pressure should be firm, but not deep, and intentional, not a light tickle. They can work from foot to head, getting between all bones along the way, and don’t forget the ears! The flow of touch can go towards the heart but it’s not necessary. The one thing to remember not to do is rub counter-clockwise on baby’s tummy (if you are facing them that would be moving to the left, from baby’s perspective it would be to the right.)
Massage can be especially beneficial for specific ailments. If baby is congested a light tapping or cupping on the chest or back above lungs can help to loosen mucus. A light flowing touch around tear ducts and sinuses can help with clogged ducts and stuffy noses. Tummy massage can help with gas and constipation. And any massage and regular ritual can help reduce crying in a colicky baby. One of the coolest things about massage is that there are almost no contraindications, even with NICU babies, other than obvious concerns like open wounds or injuries.
Do your clients a great service and set yourself apart as being a little extra by teaching them these basic skills, demonstrating the value of touch and why it matters, and build their parenting confidence and bonding with baby by helping them create a ritual of massage with their baby. They will remember you for encouraging this intimate experience!
Tiret, H. “The benefits of infant massage.” Michigan State University Extension. 2016. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/the_benefits_of_infant_massage_1
About the Author
Jade has spent over a decade in several teaching capacities including as a childbirth educator and doula mentor. She is beyond passionate about birth work and can’t imagine anything more rewarding than teaching women to become doulas. She is heavily invested in doula work as a birth, postpartum, and bereavement doula and has served in several volunteer positions on the board of the Utah Doula Association. She is always expanding her knowledge base by attending workshops and conferences, reading the latest birth information, and studying alongside her birth peers.
Outside of doula work, she is a wife to a loving and supportive husband and mother of five. She loves to attend comedy plays, work in her flower garden, have a movie night at home, curl up by a fire with hot cocoa, and is always cooking up something whether in the kitchen or elsewhere. More than anything, Jade is passionate about people and serving them in whatever way she can, as nothing brings more joy than making someone’s life a little better. You can find more about her and her work here at doulaed.