Baby massage is a great way to feel more connected to your little one and to make you both that much calmer and relaxed. If you haven’t given it a try before, follow these steps from our ambassador, yogi Nikki Ralston.
Humans are hard wired for connection. It’s what feeds and nourishes us and brings us joy. Touch is the language that transcends all boundaries and provides an opportunity to strengthen bonds, especially between parent and child. If you’re a parent, you know how it goes – you soothe your baby, they are all ‘cooey’ and happy then the minute you put them down they start wailing, calling out for that connection they love and crave, so you pick them up and in a second they are all happy and smiley again!
If just holding your baby can be so soothing and nourishing, imagine how much both you and baby will benefit from a full body massage. In fact, studies have shown that massaging an infant can reduce crying and fussiness, help them sleep more peacefully and help alleviate constipation and colic. Research also suggests baby massage can boost their immune system and help produce more of the connecting hormone oxytocin in both of you.
Oxytocin is that wonderful hormone produced while breast feeding, that chemical responsible for the gooey eyed, loved up feeling. But as we know, not all mothers are able to breast feed and of course dads can’t! When you give your baby a massage you are actually stimulating their nervous system, which sets off a chain reaction and makes the brain produce more serotonin and less cortisol (much like what yoga or a massage does for adults.) As a result your baby’s heart rate and breathing slow down and they become more relaxed. So it’s a great way for you both to feel more connected, loved up and peaceful – and for baby to reap the health benefits as well as having calm happy parents.
Set the mood
Giving your baby a massage is as simple as it is enjoyable, so make sure that the room is warm, quiet and the light is not too bright. Pick a time when baby is relaxed but alert, because if you try to massage a fussy, tired baby you may over-stimulate them. Make sure baby has been fed and you’ve changed their nappy. A great time is after you’ve bathed them in Sleepytime Bath as the lavender and geranium oils also have a calming effect that helps to relieve stress.
Remove any jewellery that might catch or scratch. And you can use Baby Moisturiser that also has lavender and geranium oil, blended with olive, jojoba and coconut oils and shea butter. Strip baby down to just a diaper and lay them face up on a towel. Make sure your hands are warm, then take a moment and take a few deep breaths before you begin, tuning in to your breath and your heart energy.
Feet and legs
Start at the feet, which are a slightly less sensitive area for baby. Place the pad of your thumb on the sole of their foot and massage in small clockwise circles. Holding their foot, sweep your thumb upwards from the heel to the toes, then gently massage each toe lightly. Gently but firmly, wrap your hands around baby’s leg and glide your hands one at a time from the ankle to the thigh and back down. Do this a few times and then repeat on the other leg.
Massaging the tummy is a lovely way to help baby feel safe and secure, as well as helping with tummy troubles such as colic and constipation.
Place your hands at the level of your baby’s navel. In a clockwise motion, rub your fingertips firmly but gently over the tummy.
A popular technique is the ‘I LOVE U’ technique.
To do this:
– Start with your right hand on the left side of your baby’s tummy (your right) and make a single downward stroke (the I)
– Make a backward, sideways ‘L’, going from your baby’s right to left side.
– Make an upside down ‘U’, going from your baby’s lower right side, up, across and down the left side of the baby’s tummy.
Say the words ‘I love you’ as you go through the strokes. Repeat a few times as long as baby is still settled. To help relieve wind, bend both knees up to the tummy and hold for about 30 seconds before releasing. Repeat a few times.
If baby is sensitive on the chest just hold your hands over the heart and connect with each other’s energy. Massaging the chest can help relieve congestion, with both hands at the centre of the chest, stroke them out to the sides as if you were gently smoothing out sand, glide your hands down, then around, then they should meet in the centre again.
It can be surprising how much tension a baby can hold in their shoulders and arms. Gently roll your baby’s arm between your hands, starting at the shoulder and moving down to the wrist. Using the pads of your thumbs gently open their hand, roll each tiny finger between your index finger and thumb, then stroke the top of their hand from the wrist to the fingertips. Repeat on the other arm.
Massaging the face can help relax tension caused by sucking, crying and with the discomfort of teething. Babies love to mirror your movements and expressions. It is a lovely moment to make eye contact and have a happy time together, even making soft ‘ahhhhhh’ sounds together. Make small circles along the jaw with your fingertips. Join fingers or thumbs gently between the eyebrows and trace a ‘sweet heart’ over the forehead, down the sides of the face meeting at the chin. Repeat a few times.
Massage on the back can encourage strengthening of the neck, shoulders and arms, as baby lifts their head; as well as having a calming and relaxing effect. There are many ways to position your baby to encourage them to enjoy being on their front. This may be best on your lap or cradled in one arm if the baby is very young. With baby lying on their front, start at the top of the back, at a right angle to the spine. Move your hand back and forth, in opposite directions, going down the back to the buttocks, then up to the shoulders and back down again. Then swoop your hand from their neck all the way down to their feet.
Skin on skin
Finish with some skin to skin contact – this is great for all babies. Touch is so healing and nourishing for us all – for older babies it’s a great way to introduce what a gentle loving touch is and feels like, so we can remind them when they get a bit boisterous and grabby! Remember to stay connected to your breath throughout so that it’s an enjoyable ritual for you both, and always conclude the massage if baby is over-stimulated or upset. Remember you can always try again another time. Peace, love and snuggles!
Nikki Ralston has been working with the human body for over 15 years. She devised the Ralston Method, which blends together elements of hatha, vinyasa, precision alignment and mindfulness teachings. She is also the owner of Urban Ashram in Auckland.
The early stages of parenting a newborn are extremely physical and emotionally draining. During this time, your wellbeing is just as important to your baby’s growth and development as it was during your pregnancy.
For some mothers, postnatal hormones create a sense of euphoria and a surge of energy that can dramatically subside in the first week. Being aware of this can help you manage your time and energy better, and confirms that what you are going through is normal.
I recommend four key strategies for managing this time:
However, if you are without help, try to rest when your baby sleeps. Resist falling into the trap of ‘I’ll just do the washing/mop the floors, etc.’ and then have a lie down — in the first few weeks there is no guarantee how long your baby will sleep. Rest first, chores second. A mini-nap can do wonders to replenish energy
2. Worry less about doing things the ‘right’ way
Don’t worry about doing things the ‘right’ way. Practice, trial and error, and don’t expect perfection from yourself or your baby. Try not to feel guilty if sometimes you get it wrong or think you have got it wrong — remember there is no right or wrong way to parent.
Besides, babies are endlessly forgiving! The fewer expectations you place on yourself — and your baby — the better your experience will be.
The biggest change will be the pace at which you live — everything now takes longer than you expect. Gone are the days when just hopping in the car and driving to the shops takes 20 minutes — it will take you all that time just to get into the car!
Remember what doesn’t get done today can always wait until tomorrow.
Try not to be over-ambitious. And don’t feel beholden to arrangements. I believe it is always a new mother’s prerogative to change her mind. Parenting isn’t about achievement — it’s not a competition!
3. Ask for and accept offers of help
It is not a failure to ask for help — on the contrary, it demonstrates that you know your limits and are able to respect them.
Your partner can be your greatest ally. Remind yourself that he or she is learning along the way and that this is new territory for both of you. It is inevitable that you are both feeling sensitive, insecure and, as a result, are judging yourself and each other. Both of you anxious to do the right thing and fearful of failure.
Most partners want to be involved but feel they simply don’t know how to help. To them, it may seem you are constantly occupied with parenting tasks that cannot be outsourced so easily.
4. Pay attention to your feelings
Showing your emotions, being upset and feeling worn out are all relevant in building your relationship with your newborn and finding your way together. It’s also okay to admit that when your baby is crying and inconsolable, you might not feel in a loving or nurturing mood. Bonding isn’t just about the good times and the cuddles — it’s also about navigating your way through the tough times.
And here’s some more advice I have to help you look after yourself:
Adopt an ‘It’s Okay’ mantra
I always knew that I would be using cloth nappies or at least give them a try - as don't you think they look delicious!! I really liked the idea of soft natural fabric against my babies skin instead of scratchy paper. But I do admit I wasn't particularly looking forward to washing the little buggers... ;)
It doesn't have to be daunting though and the best advice I got given was 'just start with one cloth nappy a day!' Well that was an eye opener - it doesn't have to be all or nothing!
With that in mind I bought 12 Totsbots Easyfits and I started introducing them when our little girl was around 12 weeks. And yes, one cloth nappy at a time.
Soon I found that I really loved using them and within a few weeks I fully switched over. They were so easy to use (just like a normal nappy!) and I really liked the fact that I was saving nappies from ending up in landfill.
I am a really big fan of Totsbots Easyfit nappies and here is why:
The latest Easyfit has an all-new unique layered fabric, Binky. It features an awesomely absorbent Bamboo & Cotton blend on the upper side which is nice and natural next to Bubba’s skin. The supersoft, fast-drying Minky is tucked away on the lower side, and does a very good job of storing away all the wetness.
The Easyfit is a very trim fitting cloth nappy that is very easy to use, especially when you are out and about. They are the ultimate in convenience and dry quickly.
Ones size fits all so no need to buy different sizes (they adjust with poppers).
And as for washing the nappies? I started using a one way liner. It protects your babies bottom by keeping it dry and it will protect your nappy from staining especially from the dreaded bright yellow breastfed poo! It also makes getting rid of poo easier, not to be underestimated ;).
I used to rinse my nappies, spin them in the washing machine and then wash them all together at the end of the day. Once you get the hang of it, it's very easy. And if you keep in mind that you don't have to use them all the time, every day, it really takes the pressure off!
All in all I cannot recommend the Easyfits highly enough and I really enjoyed using them. Because it's cloth nappy week this week you can now snap them up for only a fraction of the normal price!
Visit www.nappydays.co.nz for amazing discounts!!
One of my favourite blogs 'Detoxinista.com' posted this recipe and it's delicious and super easy to make!!
In fact, this all-natural version calls for just a few ingredients and can be whipped up in a matter of minutes! The filling is a simple mix of coconut butter, raw cashew butter, and maple syrup (or honey, if you prefer), with a touch of turmeric to create the signature yellow-colored centers. Covered in melted dark chocolate, these eggs can be served at room temperature for an authentic copy-cat, complete with a soft and fondant-like filling.
Best of all, these eggs can be easily customized to suit your taste. The following recipe isn’t as shockingly sweet as the store-bought variety, but since there’s no baking involved, you can taste-test the filling along the way and adjust the sweetness as you see fit.
These chocolate-covered “eggs” are practically fool-proof!
Healthy 'Cadbury Crème' Eggs
Makes 8 pieces
1/4 cup coconut butter (homemade or store-bought), at room temperature
1/4 cup raw cashew butter
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (or honey)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup 70% or darker chocolate chips
Combine the coconut butter, raw cashew butter, and maple syrup in a bowl and stir well to combine. Scoop two tablespoons of that mixture into a separate bowl and add in the 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric. Stir well to mix, creating the yellow “yolk” filling.
Place both bowls in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes, or until the mixture is solid enough to be shaped with your hands. (If you chill the mixture too long it may become too firm to work with– in that case, just place it on the counter until it starts to come to room temperature again.)
To create the egg filling, scoop 1 tablespoon of the white filling into the palm of your hand, roll it between your hands to create a ball, and then press it into a flat circle. Scoop 1/2 teaspoon of the yellow filling and place it in the centre of the white filling, as pictured below.
Wrap the white filling around the yellow filling, and roll it into a ball again, as pictured above. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, creating about 8 small “eggs.” Place in the freezer to set until firm.
To complete the eggs, melt the dark chocolate chips in a double-boiler over the stove and use a spoon or spatula to coat each frozen egg. (The coating should solidify pretty quickly, thanks to the chilled filling.) Depending on your preferences, feel free to add a second coating of dark chocolate for a thicker chocolate shell.
These eggs can be stored at room temperature for several hours, but if you don’t plan on serving them until the next day, I’d recommend keeping them in the fridge overnight so they don’t spoil. Enjoy chilled or at room temperature!
Happy Easter x x
Babymoons. Just like a honeymoon, the babymoon is all about escaping the day to day, offering a last chance romantic getaway before baby makes three or more. More realistically, for those with tired swollen ankles and a sore back, it's a little quiet time for parents-to-be to enjoy together.
Being pregnant is a happy — and hectic — time. Chances are you’ve been in overdrive lately — running to doctor’s appointments, shopping for baby gear, stocking up the freezer. A babymoon is a timely trip-for-two that’ll give you and your baby's daddy a chance to catch your breath and do some serious couple bonding before your bundle arrives.
Here are a few tips for planning your babymoon!
1. Time it right!!
Who wants to travel when they can barely keep down a bagel for breakfast? And who feels like hitting the road when they barely fit in the car? That’s why the sweet spot for a babymoon is during the second trimester (weeks 14 through 28), when you’re past the queasies but not too big to get around easily.
2. Make low stress travel arrangements
You might love to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef or climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but now’s not the time to head halfway around the world or tackle extreme adventures. Keep it simple, close to home and make sure medical help is close by.
3. Book the right room
Sleeping with a basketball in your belly is tough enough at home — the last thing you want is another sleep-sapper on your babymoon. When making your reservation, look for a king-sized bed and ask for extra pillows to support your body (but consider bringing your own favorite pillow for your head). Quiet is key, so ask about and pass on rooms near the elevator or overlooking the kiddie pool.
4. Choose the right spot
When picking your destination, go for a place that offers opportunities for serenity along with pregnancy-friendly activities. Obvious choices include a beachside resort or a B&B near a town with strollable sights.
Remember it's all about relaxing and taking time out for yourself and as a couple. Enjoy your babymoon!!
How can one tiny person need so many things! Use this shopping list to navigate your way through preparation for your newborn!
Natural fabrics like merino and cotton are a must for (newborn) babies. Synthethic fibres do not breathe and can cause overheating or sweating. Merino really is the safest fibre to dress your baby in as it regulates temperature and controls moisture, which means your little one is comfortable and dry.
O A bassinet, Moses basket or baby hammock
O 4x (merino) swaddle wraps
O 3x fitted bassinet sheets
O 2x merino blankets
O 1x woollen mattress protector
O Baby bath/Tummy tub
O 5x washcloths
O 2x hooded towels
O 1x bath support
O 5x full-length (merino or cotton) stretch-n-grow suits
O 3x merino onesies
O 3x cotton onesies
O 3x singlets
O 4x socks
O 4x leggings
O 2x cardies
O 8x bibs
O 2x merino beanies
O 2x cotton hats
O (cloth) nappies - when using normal nappies budget on needing around 10 a day. If you are planning to use cloth, it's recommended to buy at least 18.
O Change mat
O 20x reusable wipes
O eco friendly & natural wipes for 'on-the-go'
O a natural barrier cream
O Nappy bucket
On the move
O Nappy bag
O Baby carrier/Sling - like Ergo Carrier/Tula Baby Carrier
Happy shopping :) x
Kim is the owner of SNUGBAGS - Merino for Kids. Together with her partner James and their little girl Neeva Rose, she lives in a little beach town called Piha on the West Coast in New Zealand. They love surfing, building sandcastles and all things natural and organic.