The gentle touch

Last week I completed my Infant Massage Practitioners Course. I had a ball with lots of babies and mums helping us out with our techniques. I took Baby Massage classes with my son a few years ago. It was my favourite part of the week but in my sleep-deprived fog I hadn’t realised the breadth of benefits for both baby and mum & dad – here are just a few of the benefits I learned about last week:

For Baby

Phot by o5com

If mums come to Baby Massage for a specific reason it will usually relate to digestion, as I did. Massage can soothe colic, alleviate trapped wind and aid constipation, as well as helping to stimulate the circulatory and nervous systems. Embarrassment should be left at the door of classes because the effects of massage can be immediate and many a trump may be heard! Massaging the gums may also help teething so that everyone can get a better night’s sleep!

Touch is baby’s first language, and it is their most advanced sense at birth. Massage teaches positive loving touch, especially important for babies who have spent time in hospital. The act of massage helps babies to feel loved, respected and secure – someone loves them enough to do this loving act. A baby who enjoys a daily massage as part of their routine will feel especially loved.

Ultimately massage will promote relaxation in your baby, reducing fussiness and improving his and your sleep, a win-win for all concerned.

For Parents

Massage can alleviate the effects of Postnatal Depression, helping mum to have a more positive interaction with her baby. It generally helps parents to understand their baby’s non-verbal communication cues. It can be a great way for parents to understand how their baby responds to something that feels really good.

Massage enhances parents’ confidence and competence in handling their baby; this is especially true with fathers who may be all fingers and thumbs with their young baby.

The action of massaging their baby can have quite a hormonal effect on a mother. Massage stimulates the production of hormones that promote both lactation and nurturing instinct – quite a hit for mum and baby!

What I noticed during my time with the massage guinea pigs was that almost all the babies became really excited when their mum’s massaged them initially (lots of squeals and shrieks) and then gradually became really chilled out, to the point of falling asleep in a few cases. The mums and babies maintained such strong eye contact, just enjoying this special interaction, often oblivious to everything else. It was pretty special to be part of it and I’m looking forward to working with many more mums, dads and their babies in the future.

Have you tried Baby Massage – what was your experience of it?

Everything but the kitchen sink?

One thing I’m asked time again is what to take in a hospital bag. The last thing you want is to have got settled in the maternity ward to realise that you’ve left the most crucial item behind so I have written a list that should cover most eventualities.

The Bag Itself

Lets start with the bag itself. Try to keep the size and weight of the bag to a minimum because the person carrying the bag, hopefully not you, is going to do a lot of carrying as he/she walks from the car park to reception, and on to the maternity ward,  the delivery suite and finally the postnatal ward. You may find it easier to take 2 small bags, one for you during the birth and one for after the birth, perhaps with a nappy and first clothes on the very top to avoid the whole bag being emptied to get the baby dressed. Soft bags rather than hard sided cases are preferable for squeezing into hospital cupboards.

For Mum

  • Something comfortable and light-weight (hospitals can be very warm) to give birth in.
  • A dressing gown, preferably in a dark colour.
  • Slippers.
  • Lip balm
  • Things to help you relax or pass the time, such as books, magazines, games and so on. If you are likely to want to use your iPad, play music or a DVD take a battery-operated equipment, as many hospitals won’t let you plug things in. Some hospitals provide their own CD players or radios so check this when you take the maternity tour during your pregnancy.
  • A hairband. If you have long hair, you’ll probably want to tie it up.
  • Pillows. The hospital might not have enough to make you really comfortable. Perhaps leave these in the car for your partner to collect as required.
  • Nursing bras, tops or nightie to make breastfeeding easy.
  • Breast pads
  • Old, cheap or disposable pants. If you end up having a caesarean large ‘hip huggers’ can work really well.
  • Proper maternity towels. These are usually a little softer than sanitary towels which is useful if you have had stitches.
  • A toiletry bag with anything you would normally take for a couple of days away.  Maybe some make-up too, especially if your local newspaper visits the hospital to photograph babies for its new arrivals page! I learnt this to my cost when I ended up in the local ‘Advertiser’ looking like the creature from the deep!
  • Arnica tablets to help with bruising after the birth. Many women report that taking arnica helps reduce bruising and helps the healing process.
  • Food and drink for during and after birth. HypnoBirthing® mums especially tend not to lose their appetite so be prepared with a supply of goodies. Also, if you give birth during the evening or night it may be that no food is available until the morning and by that point you will have worked up a hunger. Remember that your partner will be hungry/thirsty too.

For Baby

  • Nappies
  • Cotton wool balls
  • Nappy Bags
  • Something to go home in; consider whether the weather is likely to be hot, cold or wet.
  • Sleepsuits, Bodysuits etc.
  • Blanket.
  • Socks or Booties
  • Scratch Mitts
  • Muslin Squares
  • Hat
  • Don’t forget to have an appropiate infant car seat ready. Most hospitals won’t let you leave by car without one. Take the time beforehand to read the instructions. When I put my baby in for the first time I had no idea how to tighten the straps and the midwife wasn’t able to help either so I had to get the manual out before we could leave!

For Your Birth Companion

  • A change of clothes for your birth companion in case their’s get messy.
  • Something to wear in the pool if he/she is likely to join you.
  • Food and drink.

Don’t Forget!

    • Your birth preferences. Take a few copies in case there is a shift change during your birth.
    • Your hospital notes.
    • Change for the car park. Leave some change in your car now (out of view) so there will always be some change available. During your hospital tour ask whether there are any special arrangements for the maternity patients. At my local hospital the parents pay for the first 2 hours and then a sign is put in the car to tell the parking attendant that the ticket will not be renewed due to it belonging to a birthing mother. This was not widely advertised so it is worth asking.
    •  A fully charged camera. Don’t rely on your phone or tablet that you have been using for hours to keep you entertained to have sufficient juice left to take photos.

 

Don’t Take:

Anything valuable since hospitals tend not to provide lockable cupboards and you may have to move to a different room quickly so items are easily mislaid.

 

I purposely haven’t put quantities down since you can never tell how long your birth will take and how long you will remain in the post-natal ward. Some mothers leave hospital within a few hours whilst more complicated births can result in a longer stay. Therefore, take enough for a couple of days but leave additional supplies, well labelled, at home for your partner to bring in as necessary. Perhaps go through it with him/her since new parents don’t necessarily know the difference between a romper suit, a babygro and a sleepsuit; I certainly didn’t and neither did my husband. Also ensure that your partner knows the whereabouts of the closest Mothercare. Boots or similar in case there is something that you have totally forgotten.

I won’t have covered everything so please, if you can think of anything else, please add a comment. I hope this has been helpful.

If you’re also worried about what you need back at home, check out: What Do I Need To Buy?