Transcript: Baby Massage: Hear From a Mum How It Helped Her Baby

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Baby Massage: Hear From a Mum How It Helped Her Baby and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

In this week’s episode of First Time Mum’s Chat, I’m doing something a little different!

In a recent podcast episode I spoke with eco-home chartered architect, Jane Leach. Before our interview, the topic of baby massage came up, since this is what I do and Jane explained that this was an important part of her daily routine when she was raising her son.

I thought it would be an excellent opportunity for you to hear from a mom, who practiced baby massage techniques from a very early age, talk about her experiences and how it helped her little one sleep better.

Now on to our chat –

Hello Jane, it’s great to be chatting with you again. I so enjoyed talking with you when we put together Episode 64, “Homes for Moms: Designing a Home For Eco-Conscious Families” episode three weeks or so ago. I’m looking forward to finding out how you incorporated baby massage into your son’s routine and what your experiences were.

Jane Leach: Thank you, Helen. It’s really a pleasure to speak with you. And yeah, baby massage is something that I just really loved to do.

Helen Thompson: So I thought I’d ask you, first of all, why did you choose to do baby massage with your young baby?

Jane Leach: I think there’s a combination of factors, about why I started it. My mum was a midwife, so I think that is really where I became aware of baby massage. She actually trained as a baby massage teacher as part of her job as a community midwife. So she would teach breastfeeding as well as other sorts of support for mums pre- antenatal and sorry postnatal.

So she was actually there at my birth as well. She was there in the room with me. She wasn’t my midwife, but she was there to support me. And so I’m familiar with the idea of baby massage, as a thing. But she didn’t teach me how to do baby massage, because although she’d trained in it, in order to teach mums, she’d never actually got the opportunity to do it in her job.

Helen Thompson: That’s a shame!

Jane Leach: It was a shame. And so, because she’d done the training, but it had been so many years, she’s been retired for a while now. And she’d been retired for awhile at the point that I had my son. So she didn’t really feel confident about being able to teach me how to baby massage, because it’d been such a long time.

Helen Thompson: I can understand that.

Jane Leach: Yeah, but she was supportive of me doing it. And when we talked about it, she agreed with me that it could be a good idea. I wanted to do something that I felt would be pleasurable for my baby and be a good bonding experience for us.

I was desperate for him to sleep better.

Helen Thompson: Yes and did that help? Did you find that helped?

Jane Leach: Definitely. It definitely helps with sleep. He had reflux quite badly as a baby. So when he was born, he was in the higher 90th percentile size-wise, he was huge. I can’t remember the exact weight, 9 pounds, 10 ounces. So he was a big body baby with huge fists too. Came out, looking like a boxer. And and yeah, but he didn’t put weight on and just stayed the same for a long time and gradually slipped right down the percentiles. And wasn’t doing what he should have been doing because he was feeding well, but he was regurgitating. It was all coming back up again very quickly.

And so that was a big issue, the reflux. And I think that through the night was a big issue as well. And I don’t know if the baby massage helped specifically with the reflux. It’s hard to say which one thing was the thing that helped. But I’m sure that it helped him feel more comfortable and he definitely slept better. It was noticeable, the difference. So what I did was I did the baby massage as part of his bedtime routine and it was pre COVID.

It’s hard to remember that time. We would travel and visit friends and relatives and stay in different places. And so that was my way of maintaining a routine for him that was familiar and helping him to settle. And I also was conscious of not necessarily wanting to give him a bath every night. Not giving him a wash, keeping him clean, but not wanting to necessarily bathe him all the time. And so I felt like instead of having a bedtime routine, that incorporated bath time, I decided to use massage instead.

Helen Thompson: I think that’s good for a bedtime routine.

Jane Leach: Yeah, I think it was soothing for him. I think he became familiar with the idea that the massage was the precursor to going to sleep and regardless of where we were, I could find a quiet corner, layout a mat, give him a massage. I use coconut oil and then I would massage him and also I went to classes for baby yoga as well.

So I’d do a little bit of baby yoga with him as well and then get him ready for bed. And if we were out and he actually wasn’t able to be in bed, I carried him a lot. So put him in his sling and he’d sleep and he’d be really, really content.

Helen Thompson: And was there any particular strokes that you found really useful that you learnt particularly good for sleep?

Jane Leach: I don’t know. I think that maybe gently stroking around his face seemed to soothe him quite a lot, in terms of sleep. I developed a kind of a routine, like a song type of thing.

Helen Thompson: When I teach baby massage, I always encourage parents to do songs because I think it’s a really important thing for their social skills, it’s really important for their language, it helps with their development. And you can see their face smiling at you and engaging with you while you’re singing with them. And it can be a really fun as you say, bonding experience.

Jane Leach: He definitely enjoyed it and it was noticeable when there would be some times when I wasn’t able to do it. And that wasn’t very many times, but there were the odd occasion when I wasn’t able to massage him before bad, for one reason or another. It was noticeable how much more he would wake during the night. He would be much less well-settled and the next morning he would be more grouchy as well, I suppose, cause he was more tired.

But it really made a noticeable difference because it was such a daily, regular thing that I did, the days I didn’t do, it really stuck out. It was obvious.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, so that shows how it does help with sleep. That’s good to hear from a mum who’s done that because so many people ask me, how does baby massage help with sleep? And I explain to them it’s all about melatonin and all that stuff, but it’s actually nice to hear from a mum that it does actually work.

Jane Leach: I don’t know all the reasons. I didn’t know it had anything to do with melatonin or anything like that. All the science stuff I don’t know about.

Helen Thompson: I’ve only learnt the science stuff, because I always share that with moms when I talk to them about when I do a class. As a mom who’s first coming to baby massage, is there any particular part that you would recommend?

Jane Leach: Well, one thing I noticed is that he never had any digestion problems and so he never had any constipation. I know certain friends of mine have these very dramatic and nappy explosion occasions. He never had that. He was always very regular and quite sort of manageable from that point of view. And I think that the massaging around his intestines, you know, that little hand movement. That’s one thing that I did, just over his tummy, with the heel of my hand, around his belly button, I think, and then just gently going around and I suspect, although I don’t know, I have no evidence for it, but I suspect that that really helped him to stay regular and not have those extremes of constipation or crazy nappy explosion. He never had any of those at all.

Helen Thompson: Yeah. Cause if you massage as you say, with the heal of your hands in a clockwise direction, I don’t know if you know the science behind it, but you’re actually helping your baby to get rid of all that trapped wind that’s maybe in there, whether they have it or not. You’re releasing all those little trapped air bubbles that are inside the baby’s tummy. So it’s interesting that you said that worked for you. Cause it also helps with things like colic. It could be because you did massage around the tummy area and it helped to relieve all that trapped wind and stuff. So he didn’t have that, that constipation or colic.

Jane Leach: No, that we’d never had any of those issues that the only issue we had was the reflux. And I don’t know, to what extent the baby massage helps with that.

We did use Gaviscon, which I wasn’t keen on giving to him. And then we also had another medication cause Gaviscon didn’t work so well. He was prescribed another thing. I can’t remember what it was called. But what I actually found was holding him upright after feed for at least 10 minutes, but maybe 15 to 20 minutes better, before lying him down. And that was a bit of a pain at night time because I would have to sit up with him, but that allowed us to then come off the medication and then he was fine. You know, I prefer it to be less medicated.

So obviously if it’s necessary, I wouldn’t say don’t take medication, but that’s my sort of preferences to try to find alternatives to medication as much as I can. So holding vertically and possibly the massage as well helped with him being able to digest and not have the reflux as badly.

It was probably maybe about four or five months where I hadn’t figured it out, holding him upright and nobody had advised me about that. So that discovery of holding him upright really did seem to make the biggest difference. And then I’m sure other things in combination will have helped as well.

Helen Thompson: You did yoga with your baby. I do incorporate this in my colic sequence with mums sometimes if they say that they’re really struggling.

Jane Leach: To be honest, the yoga class I went to was as much about us as mums doing yoga, gentle yoga. And then kind of engaging with our children at the same time, so that the babies were kind of on a cushion in front of us and we were doing yoga poses and then doing songs and certain yoga kind of manipulations with them. So there was a bit of baby yoga and a bit of mum yoga.

It was lovely. I really, really enjoyed it. And I stayed for as long as I possibly could. I was kicked out.

Helen Thompson: Why were you kicked out?

Jane Leach: I was kicked out because he got to the point where he was crawling, so he’s getting quite active and he was really interested in my nose. He got interested in my nose and he stuck his little finger up my nose and broke his nail.

Helen Thompson: That would have been quite painful for you!

Jane Leach: Painful, but also it caused a lot of blood. If you can imagine, it was a bit of a gory yoga incident.

Helen Thompson: These things happen. I only teach baby massage up until their crawling, just for that very reason. Your son is now six years old. Do you ever massage him still?

Jane Leach: I don’t give him a full massage, but sometimes, what I used to do when I started the massage, I would squeeze, gentle squeezes down his arms and down his legs. That’s the very first thing that I would do that I remember. And so sometimes at bedtime now, when he’s struggling to settle and he’s still full of energy and wanting to tell me stories and doesn’t want to settle down. He just wants to jump and bounce on his bed. Then sometimes I will just do those gentle squeezes down his arms and his legs and I’ll say to him, when you were a baby, I used to do baby massage with you and I used to do this.

Often, he’s quite interested to hear about what it was like when he was a baby, but also he does seem to respond to that. I don’t do much more than that. But that does seem to maybe trigger some memory or something I don’t know. But I did massage him till quite late. Like maybe two, something like that.

Helen Thompson: I always say, you can always add when you massage, when they’re lying on their back, you can always have fun with them and make a pizza or play with some weather and make it stormy. I mean, there’s so many things you can do when they get older, which I’m sure you did when he was a toddler.

Jane Leach: I wish I’d had you as a, as a baby massage teacher, because that sounds really fun. I did go to baby massage class and I really just learnt some basic things and then put them into a kind of routine so that I would remember it and then repeated that. I didn’t play around with it too much because I wasn’t really that confident about it.

I didn’t really learn that many techniques. I just went to a very short course. So it would have been really nice to have learned more and different ideas of stories and songs to be able to incorporate. I think that would have been really fun. I didn’t really do that that much. It would have been nice to have done more.

Helen Thompson: I think because I come from a childcare background, I incorporate a lot of the childcare songs that I’ve learnt and done throughout my life into baby massage, so maybe I do it slightly differently. And I recently trained with a company from the UK who actually incorporate a lot more songs.

So I’ve added more to my classes and that’s why I like doing them on Zoom. I can add more and explain it more to parents and take my time more to do it.

If you were a mum again, are there any tips that you would give to a mum that would be beneficial to them for baby massage?

Jane Leach: Well, definitely do it. Definitely do try it. I did it and because I was doing it when we were at friends and families homes in the evening when we were visiting. And so seeing me do it with my baby inspired friends and family, to try it with their babies as well. And they reported that they were really pleased to have tried it.

So definitely. Give it a go, definitely. And I think the only really main things are for it to be warm enough.

Helen Thompson: Yes, that’s a very good key yeah, because if you’re not in a warm, relaxing environment, you can get cold, so you’re frustrated and your baby can get cold and they’re frustrated. So you both pick up each other’s energy.

Jane Leach: Yeah, it’s not always the warmest and everybody keeps their homes at different temperatures. You tend to do it on the floor, and sometimes you can feel a bit more of a draft at the floor as well. So baby is naked on the floor and it’s a bit of a draft then I would say something to look out for. That would be the key thing, because if you’re warm and relaxed. I think that touch, you know, that human touch is just really important as well and, and babies seem to enjoy it. Well, my son loves it. I think it really helped him.

Helen Thompson: Oh, well, that’s good to hear, so, well, thank you for sharing about baby massage. I appreciate it. It’s really lovely to hear how mums really, really enjoy it because I think it’s something that a lot of mums don’t know very much about and hearing it from you, who’s actually experienced it and knowing that your baby loved it.

So, thank you for sharing that with me, Jane. I really, really appreciate your time.

You’re welcome, Helen. It was really lovely to chat with you.