Motherhood second time round comes with a whole load of challenges you perhaps didn’t quite expect. Top of the list is the constant feeling that you are never quite managing to devote your entire attention to anything or anyone. The mum-guilt of neglecting one sibling whilst you tend to the other can be pretty overwhelming to begin with – until you learn to juggle, and then it eases a tiny bit. I took me quite a while to develop my strategies of dividing my time and ensuring one-on-one moments with each child were quality. My answer is Baby Massage.
As an International Association of Infant Massage Certified Instructor, Massage in Schools Programme Instructor and mum to three children aged 6, 3 and 2, I reckon I’m pretty qualified to offer you some ideas for using baby massage with all your children of various ages. Baby massage isn’t just for babies.
1) Book yourself and Baby into a baby massage course at a time when you know Big is being spoilt rotten by Grandma or running riot at nursery. It’s really common for second-time mums to attend my baby massage classes with the number one goal of doing something just with Baby. Baby Massage is a wonderful tool for soothing, calming and connecting with your new baby – but that’s a blog for another day!
2) Take your new found or newly refreshed skills home to Big. Baby massage was designed for babies under 12 months old but once you’ve learned the techniques you can continue to use them as your child grows – use exactly the same strokes with your older child. Children who regularly experience nurturing touch, for example in the form of massage, develop greater body awareness, have higher self esteem and are at a lower risk of being the victims of abuse.
3) Permissions are always important in baby massage, so keep up the permission routine with Big and Baby. This in itself is a really great opportunity to teach both children about respect and boundaries. Your older child will quickly recognise and response to Baby’s cues during massage. Children learn to trust and rely on each other which will stand them in good stead as they grow up together.
4) Massaging your new baby alongside their older sibling is a wonderful shared experience. Lie Big and Baby side by side for massage. Start by massaging Big, then Baby and then return to Big – I recommend you just work on one body part at a time so neither gets bored waiting for their turn. Your older child will see you are treating both children in exactly the same way and you demonstrate that you love them both equally.
5) Teach Big the massage strokes as you massage Baby. Sit Big next to you with a doll or teddy – as you massage Baby, Big massages the toy. Talk Big through each massage stroke as you massage simultaneously. It’s a great opportunity to chat to Big about the names of body parts, bones, muscles, organs and discuss how their body works.
6) Teach Big to massage Baby. I recommend you wait until baby is around 4months old and beyond that really fragile stage. Choose very simple strokes that you know Baby enjoys – you could try some easy milking strokes of the leg, or some gentle tummy strokes, or the back routine, or even some gentle movements of Baby’s limbs. Your older child sees that their new baby is in fact a real person. Massage helps your child realise that the new baby isn’t to be feared.
7) As Baby gets older and is able to sit up, Baby can join in with story massage. Simply sit both children in front of you and ‘draw’ the story on their back as you read a book – start with “The Gruffalo’s Child” or “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”. You could even ask Big to make up a story as you draw it on the childrens’ backs. Eventually, Big will want to do story massage for Baby – and even further down the line, they will be able to reciprocate completely.
As I mentioned, I am a mum of three. Massage time is often after tea, sometimes whilst watching a DVD. All three children lie in a row and I massage them in turn using the same IAIM Baby Massage routine I teach parents of babies (remember, they are a little bit older so can cope with waiting their turn). My eldest likes ‘massage and chatting time’ when it’s just the two of us and he tells me (usually the most random) stories from his day. A study published last summer revealed that parents talk to their primary school aged children for just 44 minutes a day – it’s important to make these 44 minutes count. We very often enjoy story massage at bedtime and my eldest in particular is very good at story massage for his little sisters. It’s my top tip for any mums of three out there doing bedtime on their own – invite Eldest to massage Middle whilst you see to Youngest. Every single night, each of my children has a simple three or four stroke bespoke massage routine in their bed and off they drift to sleep…usually…sometimes…..
Oh and all of this is good for the grown-ups too. Parents who regularly massage their children experience lower stress levels and improved sleep quality, among other things. What’s not to love?
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Claire Houston, Certified Infant Massage Instructor and Massage in Schools Programme Instructor, offers various baby and child massage classes in Midlothian
Claire Houston Baby & Child Massage - clairehoustonbabymassage.com