Infant Massage: How To

babymassageAs we mentioned last week in a post on the benefits of infant massage, this special activity with baby can be a great bonding tool with myriad benefits to both babies and their caregivers.

While no special training is required to offer healthy touch to a baby, here is some additional information on how to give infant massage.

When to massage

For young babies, it can be ideal to offer a massage when your baby is in a quiet yet alert state. You may want to avoid the time just after a feeding or when baby is sleepy.

Setting the scene

Lay a soft towel or blanket on the bed or floor where you will offer the massage. You may also wish to sit on the floor (or bed) with the soles of your feet together and knees apart, forming a diamond shape with your legs. Drape the blanket over your feet and between your knees. Undress baby down to the diaper and place him or her on the blanket, head toward your feet, facing you.

You can use massage oil in a non-breakable container. Almond oil or coconut oil work well for many babies, but you may wish to test the oil on a small spot on baby’s skin and wait a day to ensure they aren’t irritated by the oil.

Beginning

Start with a gentle stroke from baby’s head to toes. If baby stiffens up, cries, or becomes irritable, switch to another area of the body or end the massage for time being. If s/he responds well, start gently massaging his/her body. Here are some techniques for each body area.  Note: their is not one particular “right” order of body areas to massage.  You may choose to work from trunk to extremities, or the opposite, or massage in any order that feels right.

Tummy

  1. Hold your hands palms toward you, fingers pointing in (wrists bent), so the edge of your pinky can move across your baby’s belly. Starting at the base of the rib cage, stroke down with one hand, then the other, continuing one after the other.
  2. Massage her belly with your fingertips in a circular, clockwise motion.
  3. Do the “I Love U” stroke: Trace the letter I down your baby’s left side. Then trace an inverted L, moving across the belly along the base of her ribs from your left to right and then down. Trace an inverted U, stroking from low on the baby’s right side (your left), up and around the navel, and down the left side (your right).
  4. Walk your fingers around baby’s navel, clockwise.
  5. Hold baby’s knees and feet together and gently press knees up toward the belly. Rotate baby’s hips around a couple times to the right. (Great for expelling gas. 

Note: Avoid massaging tummy if the umbilical cord site hasn’t completely healed.

Head and Face 

  1. Cradle your baby’s head with both hands, gently massage the scalp with your fingertips, as if you’re shampooing. (Avoid the fontanel, the soft spot on top of baby’s head.)
  2. Massage her ears between your thumb and index finger.
  3. Trace a heart shape on baby’s face, bringing your hands together at his/her chin.
  4. Place your thumbs between your baby’s eyebrows, and stroke outward.
  5. Stroke from the bridge of the nose out over the cheeks.
  6. Using your fingertips, massage the jaw hinge in small circles.

Chest

  1. Place both hands on baby’s chest and stroke outward from sternum to shoulders.
  2. Beginning at the sternum, trace a heart shape bringing both hands up to the shoulders, then down and back together.
  3. In a crisscross pattern, stroke diagonally from one side of your baby’s hip, up and over the opposite shoulder, and back down to her hip.

Arms

  1. Hold her wrist with one hand and hold your other hand in a C-shape around baby’s upper arm; make long strokes from her shoulder down to her wrist
  2. With each hand grasping her arm, one right above the other, stroke down from shoulder to wrist with both hands rotating in opposite directions, as if you were gently wringing out a towel.
  3. Massage baby’s palms, moving thumb over thumb from heel of the hand to the fingers.
  4. Stroke down from the wrist to fingertips on the back or front of the hand. Gently squeeze and pull each finger.
  5. Roll her arm between both your hands.

Legs

  1. Hold the ankle with one hand and hold your other hand in a C-shape, thumb down, around your baby’s upper thigh. Stroke from thigh down to foot, skipping over the knee joint.
  2. With your hands grasping the leg at the thigh, one right above the other, stroke down from hip to foot with both hands rotating in opposite directions, as if you were wringing out a towel.
  3. On the sole of her foot, use a thumb-over-thumb motion to massage from heel to toes.
  4. Use your whole hand to stroke the bottom of the foot from heel to toes.
  5. Stroke the top of the foot. Gently squeeze and pull each toe.
  6. Roll each leg between your hands, as if you’re rolling dough.

Back

Place baby on tummy horizontally in front of you, or lay baby across your outstretched legs. Keep baby’s hands in front of him/her, not at the sides.

  1. With both of your hands on baby’s back, move each hand back and forth (keeping them going in opposite directions) from the base of the neck to her buttocks.
  2. Hold your baby’s bottom with one hand and use the other to make long strokes from the neck down to the bottom.
  3. Using your fingertips, massage in small circles down one side of baby’s spine and up the other. Avoid pressing on the spine directly.
  4. Massage the shoulders with small circular motions.
  5. Massage the bottom with big circular motions.
  6. Holding your fingers like a rake, stroke down her back.

Other infant massage tips:

  • Make strokes gentle but firm, and not ticklish.
  • Build massage into your baby’s daily schedule.
  • Follow baby’s signals about when to stop. A massage can last anywhere from a few minutes to as much as 30 minutes, depending on baby’s moods.
  • Enjoy this precious time with your beloved little one.
Advertisements

New Mama Self-Care

Woman Lying in a Bathtub Holding a MugSelf-care can be a real challenge in the early postpartum and throughout early motherhood.  With a little one needing care 24/7, a home to keep somewhere in the realm of clean, adult relationships to nourish, maybe other kids to care for, and often additional work inside or outside the home, it can be hard enough to get food in our bellies and count on more than one hand how much sleep we had the night before.

But self-care is paramount, especially in the postpartum and first year of motherhood when we are often depleted and giving far more than we are receiving.  Mamas need a full well of their own to keep giving as motherhood requires.  They also need a full well because they deserve to BE well.

We probably all have enough checklists of things we need to do.  Here is a simple little check IN list for mamas—a way to become more aware of how well you are nourishing and caring for yourself.  Notice where you fall on the spectrum (how many “yes” and “no”s) and allow this to guide you towards greater self-care.

Check IN list for Mama Self-Care

Yes           No

____           _____    I allow myself to rest when I am tired

____           _____    I nap regularly or as often as I can

____           _____    I drink enough fluids daily

____           _____    I am eating well—I am able to eat when I am hungry, I eat often throughout the day, and the foods I eat are healthy and nourishing, particularly for me as a postpartum (breastfeeding) mother

____           _____    I eat something fresh and natural at least once daily

____           _____    I spend time in nature at least once, if not several times, a week

____           _____    I get sunlight (nearly) everyday

____           _____    I take care of my physical needs and wellbeing

____           _____    I get help or take measures to address physical issues that may arise.

____           _____     I take good care of my teeth

____           _____     I am able to keep up on personal hygiene as I’d like (bathing, nails, hair, etc)

____           _____    I exercise regularly and in ways that replenish (not deplete) my body and make me feel good

____           _____    I make time to relax and slow down

____           _____    I find time for things I really enjoy

____           _____    I regularly engage my creativity in some way

____           _____    I ask for help when I need it

____           _____    I speak up when my needs are not being met and seek solutions

____           _____    I forgive myself and others

____           _____    I take time to laugh

____           _____    I make time for my partner, my friendships, and other important relationships

____           _____    I practice kindness toward myself and my mothering, knowing I am doing the best I can in every moment

____           _____    I release expectations that don’t serve me

Take Action

Answering these three questions after checking in may also help to clarify what action you might take to enhance your self-care:

  1. What are three to five ways I could improve my self-nourishment?
  2. Whom can I ask for help or support to improve in these ways?  What would help or support look like?
  3. I deserve to take these actions because:  (you fill in the blank).

Be as kind to yourself as you are to your child. 

Give yourself permission. 

Advocate for yourself.

Ask for support. 

Forgive.

Breathe deeply. 

Laugh daily.

Be well. 

FREE Postpartum Class Next week

Join us next Tuesday October 1st from 10 to 11 am for a free 1 hour class in which we will discuss posture, strength, and flexibility changes that occur during pregnancy and after delivery. We will demonstrate correct alignment for standing, sitting, bending, lifting, nursing, and pushing strollers to protect joints from strain or pain. Participants will also be led through exercises including breathing to restore ribcage position, correct abdominal strengthening, gluteal exercises, kegels, and stretching of tight muscles. Please come in comfortable clothing and feel free to bring your baby.

Instructors: Gayla Pleggenkuhle PT, PRC & Laurie Xiong, MPT have both had extensive experience working in specialized physical therapy treatment of pelvic floor and post partum musculoskeletal issues for over 15 years. They work at New Heights Physical Therapy in Mendota Heights. www.newheightsptmn.com

Class will be held at Health Foundations and is free!

Preparing for Postpartum

newbornFamilyWhen we are pregnant, it is easy to focus on the pregnancy and the impending birth.  While is it great to focus on the present and important to prepare for the monumental experience of birth, it is also crucial that expectant mamas (and their loved ones!) think about and plan for Life After Birth.  And we’re talking more than just preparing the nursery and getting all the “stuff” of new parenthood.

Postpartum is a special time that deserves careful planning and consideration. While the postpartum period is customarily thought of as the first 6 weeks after birth; many midwives, health providers and mothers recognize that postpartum extends beyond this initial intense period of transition and healing.  In fact, midwife Raven Lang commented, “As long as the baby is still in diapers and you’re up in the night, you’re postpartum.”

While we could talk in much detail about that first year(s) of life with baby, today let’s focus on preparing for that initial month or two conventionally known as the postpartum period.

Here are five things to consider when planning for your postpartum.

 1.    Late Pregnancy Health: Nourish and Rest

A mama’s health in late pregnancy can have a profound effect on her experience of birth and the postpartum period.  A mama whose reserves are low going into birth and motherhood may find the journey much more arduous than the mama who makes self care a priority in her last weeks and months of pregnancy (of course, we encourage prioritizing self-care no matter where you are at!).

Given that our society favors the “masculine” energy of action and motion—working up until the last moments before birth, continuing to meet demanding social, professional, and other routines, and the like—it can be difficult to give yourself permission to honor the more “feminine” going-within and stillness that is needed in late pregnancy.

Late pregnancy should be a time to rest as much as possible.  Let’s repeat that, because it is important: women in late pregnancy benefit from resting as much as possible.  Light exercise and excellent nutrition are also paramount to this time.

????????????????????????????????????

It won’t be long before your needs will be balanced against the intense and constant needs of another being that you will love and care for dearly.  This is a special time to really honor yourself—to treat yourself with the utmost kindness in preparing for the adventure to come.

Rest enhances recovery and reduces stress.  Lowered stress means a stronger immune system, better personal relationships, lowered risk of postpartum depression, and a more supported mother-baby bond.

So take naps, pamper yourself, eat well, take walks or enjoy light exercise (such as prenatal yoga), ask for help and invite in the calm and still energy needed to build up your reserves for the journey ahead.

 2.    Become educated about new motherhood

In our modern reality, many of us are not exposed to babies and new motherhood as much as our grandmothers and those before her were.  While so much of parenting is instinct and intuition, seeking community wisdom and knowledge can make you a more confident new parent.

Take time to learn about breastfeeding.  All our patients meet with our lactation specialist during their third trimester, but it’s also worth considering a breastfeeding class and other resources.  La Leche League is one great resource for all things breastfeeding and they have some excellent books available.  If you are interested in breast pumps, inquire with your insurance about reimbursement (more details about this can be found here).  If you plan to bottle or formula feed, educate yourself about these options.

Learn about newborns (their needs, rhythms, etc) and learn about what is common for mamas to experience physically and emotionally after birth. During your Early Home Care class at Health Foundations, offered by the wonderful childbirth educator and doula Rochelle Matos, you will learn all about what is common and normal for baby and mom during the early weeks at home.

An excellent book that delves further into the postpartum and beyond is Natural Health after Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness by Aviva Jill Romm.

3. Familiarize yourself with the common needs of new mothers (and share with your support circle!)

 Put simply, a new mama needs someone who will meet her needs so that she can meet the needs of her baby.  New mamas in the postpartum period also need:

  • Lots of rest
  • Time and space for reflection and processing
  • Someone who will guard her privacy
  • To feel honored, protected, and nurtured
  • Praise, encouragement, and validation
  • Noncritical support and advice
  • A good, nonjudgmental listener
  • Time out daily for a bath, nap, or quiet time
  • Nourishing food and drink
  • Time to bond with baby
  • Reprieve from the demands of daily life

4.    Make a Postpartum Plan

 Making a postpartum plan is an important pre-baby activity for an expectant woman and her partner and/or support circle (see below).  The first two weeks are all about mom and baby—establishing a bond, establishing breastfeeding, healing from childbirth, and getting to know one another.  The postpartum plan should be all about supporting mama and baby in those early weeks.

At Health Foundations, we really want our mamas to REST during the postpartum period and especially those first two precious weeks.  We recommend mamas stay in bed for the first week, except bathroom and bath breaks and NO stairs.  In the second week, we recommend mostly bed rest with a stair set once a day, max.  In the third week, you can begin slowly reintroducing additional activities, though we recommend a max of one short outing per day.  Evidence shows that the more you rest in these early weeks, the faster you heal, the quicker your bleeding will subside, and the better you will feel.

SONY DSC

Delegate Responsibility

Given this, it is important to make a plan for how your usual activities will happen (or not happen).  It’s a good idea to make a list of your responsibilities, delegate tasks that need to be done, and put off or plan ahead for other tasks.  Here are some examples:

  • Laundry—perhaps someone else washes the laundry and folds it, or maybe you fold it on the bed
  • Cleaning—don’t clean!  Don’t even look at what might need cleaning!  Or if something absolutely needs to be done, delegate.
  • Grocery and other shopping—try to stock up on non-perishables ahead of time (plan to have enough toilet paper, etc. on hand for a month).  You can also shop online for food and other items, which can be delivered to your door.
  • Cooking/meal preparation—if you can, try to prepare and freeze two weeks’ worth of meals to have on hand for the postpartum.  Nutrition is very important for new mamas so consider simple nourishing balanced meals.  Also, learn about take out and delivery restaurants in your area and give them a try or at least snag menus to consider for easy meals.  There are registry websites, like foodtidings.com and mealbaby.com that can help coordinate meal offerings from friends and family.
  • Bills—consider starting online bill pay, if that makes it easier (it may be easier to click a button than fill out paperwork!) or delegate this task to another house member
  • Older Children—if you have older kids, make a plan for how they will be cared for once new baby arrives—can they stay at a friend or relative’s home for a couple days?  Will dad or another family/friend be “in charge”?  Will these children attend daycare/camp/school and how will they get there?  How can you prepare them for the changes to come?  How can you make this time special for them?
  • Visitors—Just like in birth, your partner or other close support person should protect your privacy and your boundaries during the postpartum, communicating with eager loved ones about how and when you are up for company. If you are not ready for visitors, it’s okay to ask people to hold off on visits until you are ready (baby will still be there!). You might also consider a “visiting hour” during which people can stop by shortly.  Consider asking your go-to person to make it clear to others that visits are best kept on the shorter side and that visitors are welcome to bring a meal or help out while they are over—maybe they take out the trash, load the dishwasher, change over the laundry, water plants, etc.
  • Make it special—the first few weeks are dubbed the “babymoon” (like a “honeymoon”) for good reason.  This is a precious time of strengthening the love bonds between family members.  It’s also a time to treat yourself with the utmost care.  How will you make it special?  Consider gifting yourself with little treats during this time, you deserve it after the hard work of carrying and birthing your baby!

Ahead of time, maybe you:

  • Get a manicure, get your haircut, get a massage(s), or go to a spa
  • Buy new makeup, a new (nursing-friendly) nightgown, or the like
  • Save a book from your favorite author or stock up on magazines
  • Load up your Netflix or similar with movies and TV shows you’ve wanted to see.  (funny, light shows are especially good for this time)
  • Acquire some new music by a favorite or recommended band or artist
  • Put up a beautiful piece of art or a picture that you can look at from your bed (consider natural images, which have been shown to help reduce stress and boost healing)

During your babymoon, you might:

  • Consider placenta encapsulation
  • Take sitz baths at least once a day
  • Change into a new outfit, open the windows, and welcome each new day
  • Look through albums of favorite trips or special memories
  • Journal about your experiences (they are often profound even despite the sleep-deprivation!)
  • Rest, rest, rest!
  • Eat your favorite meals
  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Be unreasonably kind to yourself

5.    Create a support circle

Some experts recommend that mamas delegate a close friend or family member as postpartum support coordinator—this person can arrange “assignments” for those in your support circle such as bringing a meal on a certain night, watching older children, coming over to doing a little house upkeep, etc.  This takes any potential pressure and awkwardness off mom to ask for support from others, if this is the case.  Of course, you can also arrange your support yourself!  Consider these possible members of your support circle:

  • Husband or partner—while every partner’s ability to take time off is different, it’s helpful to take as much time as you can—whether that’s a few days or several weeks
  • Older children—older children may be given special helper tasks
  • Relatives
  • Friends
  • Other mothers (perhaps women you meet through childbirth ed classes)
  • Postpartum Doulas—these experts are trained to meet the physical, emotional and practical needs of new families
  • Hired Help—some families consider hiring help for cooking, cleaning, and other tasks

family-support

Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and enlist help in meeting your needs in the postpartum.  In the words of midwife Aviva Jill Romm:  “In order to fully nourish your family, you must have reserves to draw on—you need to be a full well.  Every bit of help you receive adds to your reserves. Planning ahead for postpartum care ensures that you will have the help and support necessary to keep your well full.”

What do you think?  If you have kids, what did you do or wish you had done to prepare for the postpartum period?  If you are pregnant, what are you doing to keep your well full going into new mamahood? 

Welcome to the Health Foundations blog

A blog is born!

Greetings and welcome to Health Foundations’ new blog!  We are thrilled to create this virtual gathering place—a space for you to gather information, support, and resources during the childbearing year and beyond.

Here we will offer:

  • information about preconception, pregnancy, birth, babies, postpartum, and parenting
  • news about community and Health Foundations events
  • birth stories
  • insight from experts in the birth world
  • recipes
  • pictures
  • and much more

This blog is for and about YOU—our amazing Health Foundations families—we invite you to share with us your birth stories (and pictures!) as well as other stories about your birth and baby adventures.

We also welcome feedback—what would you like to see shared here?  What are your burning questions about pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood?

Please feel free to contact Jaime at Jaime@health-foundations.com with your questions, stories and feedback.

Thanks, come back and visit us again soon!

469755_10150978476250734_504943501_oPhoto by Gwendolyn Waite Photography