I’ve noticed that every year around this time, a multitude of babies are born. I like to think of these as the “Holiday Babies”. Beginning with last Thanksgiving, moving into last Christmas and New Year’s 2015, is when these little ones came into being. All this new life is exciting and life changing for the families they enter into.
For many of the families I know, this is their 2nd or 3rd child. Family dynamics change when adding a new person into the mix. The older children and especially the youngest will inevitably go through an adjustment period. Mom’s attention for the first couple of weeks will be focused on the needs of the newborn. She’ll be figuring out feeding and sleep cycles for baby as well as herself. Also, if momma had a c-section or any complications during birth, the time that she needs to recover may be longer. This can be very overwhelming and confusing to a younger child who has had all or the majority of mom’s attention for their entire life.
Infant massage and family massage time is a wonderful way to help integrate older siblings into the care of the newest family member. Often times children under the age of 3 just want to help, but their coordination, proprioception (knowing where their body is in space) and motor skills are still being developed. They may want to hold the baby; feed the baby; change the baby; give the baby their paci; or comfort the baby when they are crying. Basically, they just want to help. Or, they do not want anything to do with this baby and they do not want you to either. This is the child that regresses. They had just mastered potty training before baby arrived and now they are having accidents constantly. They had given up their paci except at sleep times and now they throw tantrums when it’s taken away. Sometimes they may even take baby’s paci and use it for themselves.
Both of these examples of children’s behavior can be helped with baby, toddler and family massage. When you are massaging your newborn to help with sleep, gassy tummy, colic, reflux, or constipation – whatever it happens to be that day – invite your older children to help. First you practice the massage stroke on your older child. This lets them feel the pressure you are using, the pace of the stroke, and teaches them, through touch, what “gentle touch” feels like. The older child is also getting that one on one time with mom or dad, which they have been missing since baby’s arrival. Now, you ask them to massage baby’s leg, arm, tummy, whatever you did with them. This way you are there to supervise and give gentle correction as needed and your older child feels that they are doing something helpful. Baby massage creates bonding and attachment between baby and the caregiver who is doing the massage. This can be a sibling as well as a parent or grandparent. Create that bond with your older child/children and then pass it along to the newest addition! Your family will be closer and much more relaxed because of it.
Tips & Tricks
Start with the legs and feet when teaching older siblings how to massage the baby. Why? First, the majority of people like to have their feet massaged; and second, this is a great part of the body to learn massage technique. There are no eyes to accidently poke and baby’s legs/feet are easily accessible.
Baby Bodywork’s Sleep Massage Oil is perfect for this activity.