Updated: Nov 15, 2019
A is for Attachment
Through my career of almost a quarter of a century working with children and parents, the word attachment has been bounded around a fair bit. The Early Years Foundation Stage is the current legal framework which early years providers must adhere to, commonly known as the EYFS. In more recent years, it has become a legal requirement for all children in an early year’s setting to have a named ‘key person’. The reason for this is that evidence shows, positive attachment impacts the overall health, happiness and wellbeing for children. In my experience it also makes it a much easier process for parents too. The key person is effectively a surrogate parent for the period they are away from their parent or main carer. I have witnessed and experienced this as a parent and professional and know all too well that there are challenges which must be overcome to ensure this is consistently effective and beneficial to all. The previous ‘curriculum’ Birth to three matters’ was the first to acknowledge the importance and significance of the first three years of life and the role we, as adults play and contribute to the wellbeing of each child.
“More than anything else, young children need loving, responsive, sensitive key people around them: people who recognise their fascination with curiosity about what is going on in their worlds, who will cater for their drive to explore and problem-solve through active learning and who will provide opportunities to play, make friends, and share experiences, and yet allow time for them to be deeply focused alone but near others as well as ensuring all their health needs are met.” Birth to three Matters: Review of Literature research (2005)
‘Are you listening to me?’ is an Oxfordshire County Council document, printed many years ago but is still available and relevant. This states that “The key person has an ‘invisible elastic thread’ of attachment to their key child, holding them in mind throughout their time at nursery, ensuring they are cherished and thought about by someone in particular while they are away from home.” This gives weight on the importance to the role of the key person in an early years setting.
Studies have shown that baby massage is effective in developed attachment between baby and care-giver, which also means that regular baby massage can assist the bonding journey between parent and child.
B is for Bonding journey
The bonding journey is the process which parent and child go through with the aim of achieving a positive attachment. Many people think this is a completely natural process, however I can tell you from experience that it is not always an easy journey and one which can be unpredictable at times. Baby massage helps with this in the following ways;
It gives you slow time to rest and recover
It allows you to have uninterrupted, one to one time together
It gives you time to slow down and get to know your baby and recognise their cues, understand their needs and get to know them as a unique individual
Skin to skin contact releases oxytocin (the love hormone) which helps to build a bond between you.
C is for Colic & D for Digestion
Colic is a condition which affects many babies from birth until around 6 months. The NHS state that Colic is a name given as diagnosis if a baby cries for more than 3 hours a day, 3 days a week for at least one week. It can be draining, physically and mentally for both of you, especially with a newborn when you are recovering from the birth and having sleepless nights. I wish I had known some baby massage routines for colic when my daughter was born over 18 years ago. Her stresses happened at the same time each day which coincided with cooking dinner and the other half coming home from work, so always stressful! Colic is basically caused by trapped wind and an immature digestive system which means the muscles in the bowel are not yet strong enough to expel the wind effectively.
Relief from colic and trapped wind is an important and highly beneficial benefit of baby massage. It helps to tone the digestive tract, expel wind from the body, break down large air bubbles and speed myelination between the nerve cells in the stomach and the brain thus making the digestion of food and elimination of waste more efficient. Baby massage literally helps the communication between brain and tummy, making it work more effectively which in turn can also help with constipation.
E for Endocrine system
The endocrine system is responsible for creating homeostasis in the body, this means ‘balance or equilibrium’. It produces and releases hormones which are essential to health and wellbeing into the body through the blood stream. For example, oxytocin which is released during massage is what helps to create the bond and attachment as discussed above and helps to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol which can have a damaging effect on the body if experienced over time.
Research by a team at the University of Warwick says that massage may help infants aged under six months sleep better, cry less and be less stressed. The team of researchers from Warwick Medical School and the Institute of Education at the University of Warwick was led by Angela Underdown. They found the various studies showed a range of significant results including indications that infants who were massaged cried less, slept better, and had lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisol compared to infants who did not receive massage.
Massage helps boots circulation which is necessary for transportation of hormones around the body, which also indirectly helps build the immune system.
F is for Fun
So much time in our lives today is taken up with mundane tasks, work and family commitments. It is important that we have fun and make time for enjoyable moments with our babies, after all the time will pass faster than you can believe. As someone who experiences postnatal depression after both of my boys, I know that ‘having fun’ is not always fun! It is imperative however that we try to get out and have contact with others. Not only is this good for our own mental wellbeing but also for our babies. In a baby massage class where you feel supported, listening to and not judged you can relax and just enjoy the moment. Listening Touch Therapies has been developed from my own experiences as a parent and I hope that all my clients feel they can just be themselves and have fun!
G for Gentle
Baby massage is both physically and mentally ‘gentle’. It is a way to slow down, remove yourself from the stresses of life and have quiet, quality time with your baby. In a safe, secure and welcoming environment where you can relax and take a gentle pace. Listening Touch Therapies baby massage classes always allow extra time to stay and chat, meet other parents or spend a few moments more in a mindful, gentle place. Gentle, slow time with your baby helps build connections, relaxes you both and builds a foundation for future relationships.