Breastfeeding is more than a nutritional transaction. Breastfeeding is a bonding experience for mother and child.
Fathers need their bonding time with babies as well. In my family, that time was bath and massage time. After my husband would give our babies an evening bath, I would breastfeed the baby then he would give the clean, tired, well-fed baby a massage. Baby massage is a perfect activity for fathers.
Benefits of Infant Massage
- Calming, leading to better sleep
- Touching, leading to better bonding
- Soothing, relieving colic
When? Choose an unhurried time when both you and your baby can relax. Make sure she isn’t hungry or restless. We found after bath a great time for massage.
Where? Both you and your baby should be comfortable. Since he will be stripped down to his diaper or without any diaper at all, make sure the room is warm enough. Lay a towel, blanket, or sheepie down in front of you on a bed or on the floor (if it isn’t too hard). Just make sure you can reach the baby easily. My husband always did massage on the bed because our babies were so relaxed afterward that they often fell asleep for the evening.
What oil? There are so many choices. Just be sure that you test whatever oil or product you choose on a small patch of the baby’s skin to see whether your baby has any sensitivities. It’s much better to check first than to find your baby all pink and blotchy because of allergies. I liked the smell of apricot oil on the baby. ByNature.ca also sells a mineral oil-free baby massage oil from Gaia Natural Baby.
What to do? This is the heart of the matter, and this is where I am going to send you to the experts. You don’t want to be to vigorous with your massage, and there are specific techniques that are helpful with, for example, digestion. There are a lot of books and videos on baby massage, but I see no particular reason to part from the classics.
Frédérick Leboyer, Loving Hands: The Traditional Indian Art of Baby Massage (1976). The first and by far most influential birth and baby book I ever read was Leboyer’s Birth Without Violence. Loving Hands continues that gentle approach to parenting to encourage loving touch. Now available in paperback as Loving Hands: The Traditional Art of Baby Massage.
Vimala Schneider McClure, Infant Massage (1978). Another classic drawn from experience with south Asian massage has been revised over the past 30 years and is still in print. The author is the founder of the International Association of Infant Massage, and revisions of her book have been influenced by the experiences of infant massage teachers.
To all of the fathers ready to bond with your babies, I wish you the best on your baby massage adventure. It’s a beautiful time to spend with a baby.