I am loving having a newborn baby. My husband and I had decided we’d only have 2 kids, and years down the line we could adopt if we decided we’d like more. However, the last 8 weeks with a newborn baby have made me fall so in love with having a newborn and I could see myself doing this stage again! (and again!)
1. Newborns smell amazing.
I love the smell of baby spit up. I truly do. The messiness of a breastfeed baby with spilled milk and spit up is one of my favorite things. I snuggle into my newborn’s neck and just love the scent he brings. There must be hormones released when a new mother smells her baby cause it’s a moment that warms my heart. Sometimes I choose not to shower or wash my shirt just so I can savor in that smell of snuggling with a new baby. But aside from the milk, spit up, and poopy diapers, babies just have a freshness about them that you can’t get anywhere else.
2. Each day they do something new
Babies grow sooo fast! Each day they do something new and you can’t help but realize the miracle in which they are. After 9 months, 2 microscopic cells form a fully living and breathing individual. But each day after they are born, they grow and change even more. The learning that takes place is irreplaceable to watch. It is incredible to watch this little being discover his or her hand or foot, to recognize his or her face in the mirror, or smile back at you!
3. They love to snuggle
These wee little ones have just spent 9 months wrapped in a warm cacoon hearing the rhythm of their moms heartbeat. When they come out, that is the most comforting position to them. Snuggled next to the chest or in someone’s warm arms, feeling the rhythm of movement and the steady beat of the heart. That’s why baby wearing is amazing (for both mom and baby). I love using the moby with a newborn. I love the way it positions baby against the body and the softness of the material and malleability to mom and baby. I have become addicted to babywearing and have a variety of carriers, each one with its own unique features. I highly encourage new moms to try out a variety of carriers to find what works best for you. In many big cities, there are babywearing groups that rent or loan carriers to people to try.
4. They cause you to slow down
Honestly, the dishes aren’t always going to be done or the laundry to be put away. But that’s ok. Babies don’t move fast nor do they need anything other than to be loved and fed. It’s a moment in time that will never be relived with that baby again. They are only newborns for a short period of time and then they bring on whole other challenges, memories and adventures. Our society moves too fast, and most of the time it’s unnecessary. We need to begin to feel productive even when relaxing and spending quality time with our families and friends.
5. They reflect true innocence
A baby comes into the world with no preconceived notions or ideas. Each experience they encounter is new. Some even say that babies and children have a connection to God that adults lose as we grow up. Babies begin their lives nearly as blank slates. The same baby could be raised in 2 different countries, 2 different families or wherever and turn out very differently. We as a culture, as a community, have the responsibility to shape these little people into life breathing, forgiving, selfless adults. It’s a huge responsibility that far too many people take too lightly. Let’s step up to the plate, people! We have a generation to nurture.
Can you even imagine the impact physical touch has on a baby? Research over and over again demonstrates the power of human touch on development. It’s been a dream of mine to become an infant massage instructor because of my strong passion for touch and baby development. As an OT, I find it extremely beneficial for children with various needs. I wrote this as if it’s for babies but I have to admit I still do it on my toddler. Many of these strokes and benefits are great for a child of almost any age.
Massage is beneficial for:
- Muscle relaxation
- Promoting sleep
- Increasing digestion
- Body awareness
- Emotional connection and attachment between caregiver and infant
- Tactile stimulation/can reduce or prevent tactile hypersensitivites
- Visual stimulation/facial attention/eye to eye contact
- Auditory stimulation/Communication (often parents talk and communicate with baby during massage)
- Improved blood circulation
- Pain relief (i.e. teething!)
- Establishing routines
- Relieve Colic
- Improved lymphatics
- Reducing edema
Massage stimulates many of the bodies systems, including, the nervous system, immune system, digestive system, respiratory and circulatory systems.
When to do massage
Really when you do the massage is up to you. However, my recommendation is that it be done as a part of your bedtime routine. After bath before putting on pajamas is a great time. If you don’t do a bath, it’s still a great thing to incorporate into a bedtime routine. There are particular strokes that are intended to be alerting and others to be calming. Obviously if you are doing it before bed, you would want to choose calming strokes. In the morning before getting dressed might be a great time to do some of the alerting strokes.
What oils/lotions to use
My number one recommendation is coconut oil, an extra virgin organic version is great (This is what we use. I purchase it at Costco). There are many benefits to using coconut oil and will maybe write a post just on the benefits of coconut oil. Make sure that whatever oil you choose is something edible so that if they get it on their hands (or feet) and then into their mouth that it’s completely safe. At bedtime, I like to add some lavender oil into the coconut oil at bedtime. I apply it to the feet and finish with a little on the chest, both areas which are covered by my children’s pajamas. I never put it on the hands, which could get into the mouth. If you choose another edible oil, just be sure to avoid nut oils due to possible allergies. It may also be helpful to test out whatever oil you choose on a small part of your baby’s skin before applying to the whole body in case your child does have an allergic reaction.
Where do I give the massage
Definitely choose a place where both of you are comfortable and will be for the time of the massage. When I’m doing it before bed, I like to do it on the baby changing table. Another benefit to this is that I give the massages with the baby completely naked. Thus if we have any sort of accident, we don’t have to worry about it getting on anything it shouldn’t. Make sure that the temperature of the room is comfortable and warm, and sometimes it’s also helpful to keep your baby slightly covered with a blanket throughout the massage (cover his legs while massage his arms). This is especially helpful keeping your baby warm after a bath. Make sure to pay attention to sounds and lighting as well. Some calm music might be beneficial. Be sure to avoid fluorescent lighting which can put off a slight flicker.
How do I give the Massage
Now to the fun stuff!
- Hello Baby! I always start with my hands still on the baby’s chest. It’s helpful to ask the baby if you can give them a massage prior to placing your hands on them. It let’s them know what’s going to happen. Listen/read your baby’s body language. If they communicate to you that they don’t want it, respect that. Additionally, remain aware of what your baby is communicating throughout the massage. Never force a stroke if your baby appears uncomfortable. Establish some eye contact, and non-verbally communicate that your baby has your attention. You can talk to your baby and tell them what’s going to happen. I love to use this time, as well as the rest of the massage to speak affirmations, prayers, words of wisdom, etc. over my baby.
- Warm Up. Generally, I’ve applied the coconut oil to my hands and want to distribute it around the body and give a quick warm up. I’ll lightly stroke my hands in an upward motion from the chest up towards the shoulders and down the arms.
- Order of Massage. I typically start with the CHEST and then move to ARMS. Then FACE. (I don’t ever start with the face. Some babies won’t tolerate face till the end. I like to use coconut oil only on the face and thus after I do the face, I add the lavender oil into the coconut oil in my hand for the rest of the body.) I then do LEGS and finish with the BELLY. I rarely do the BACK but you are more than welcome to.
- Massage Strokes. You can do all the strokes or pick just a few. It’s within the freedom of what you and your baby agree upon.
Calming Strokes: strokes that move away from the body (from shoulders/hips to ankles/wrists tend to be calming). Additionally, strokes that go with the direction of hair growth tend to be calming. Provide a firm, consistent, rhythmic pressure and stroke pattern.
- Indian Milking: Form a C shape with your hands. Start near the hips/shoulders and stroke down the extremity towards the feet/hands. Always have a hand in contact with the baby, thus one hand will be supporting at the ankle/wrist while the other is providing the stroke. Once you stroke down, the opposite hand then returns to the hip/shoulders and strokes down the other side of the extremity.
- Back and Forth: With baby lying face down horizontally across your lap, place both hands together at the top of the back. Slide your hands back and forth from the shoulders to the bottom, moving your hands in opposite direction.
- Swooping: With one hand on the buttocks and one at the base of the neck, glide your hand from the neck down towards to buttocks. Provide this same stroke from the buttocks down to the ankles.
- Squeeze and Twist: Place both hands side by side in the shape of a C near the hips/shoulders. Move them towards the hand/foot while twisting hands in the opposite direction.
- Open Hand: Hold the baby’s hand in your hands and use both thumbs simultaneous to massage outwardly to stretch and massage the palms.
- Fingers and toes: Gently squeeze and rolleach finger and toe, moving away from the body.
- Top of the foot: use one thumb after the other to provide pressure on the top of the foot from the ankle towards the toes.
- Ankle/Wrist circles: with your forefinger and thumb on the opposite side of the joint, provide slow rhythmic circles
- Chest Open Book: with thumbs together in the middle of the chest, slowly move up towards chin and then out towards armpits, and then moving down along sides of the body and back to beginning point while maintaining consistent pressure. It is a heart like movement.
- Integration: With both hands on the body, move from the chest down to the toes. Good for the beginning and the end of the massage.
Alerting Strokes: strokes that are fast, irregular or light tend to be alerting or facilitating. Those that move in the opposite direction of hair growth tend to be alerting. Strokes that move toward the body (from ankles/wrists toward shoulders/hips tend to be alerting).
- Small Circles over the back: create small circles moving along both sides of the spine.
- Combing: With your finger tips touching the back and the hand in a sort of raised, spider like position, quickly “comb” the baby’s back from the neck to the buttocks. This stroke should become lighter and lighter, creating a feather like stimulation in the end.
- Swedish Milking: Same as Indian milking, however, move from wrist/ankle towards hip/shoulder.
- Foot Press: provide gentle pressure with the thumbs to the bottom of the foot, moving from the heel towards the toes.
- Rolling: With the baby’s arm or legs between your hands, roll your hands back and forth as you move up and down the extremity.
Strokes Specific for the Belly (when performing belly strokes, you may want to make sure you have additional towels, etc. in case the massage effectively helps clear the bowels.)
- I Love You: Begin by making a vertical I like stroke on the left side of the stomach. Form an L on the baby’s belly moving from the Right upper corner, across the top of the belly and then down the L side of the belly. Stroke in an upside down U stroke moving from the Left to Right. (A side note: these are the baby’s Left and Right, not yours)
- Paddling: With your hands flat, using the outer pinky side of your hand, stroke it down along the belly. Rotate your hands in a rhythmic fashion.
- Sun & Moon: Use one hand to form a rainbow arc across belly, moving from left to right. The other hand forms small circles in a clockwise rotation. Do both movements simultaneously.
- Bubble Search: Walling your finger tips from the left to right at the height of the belly button.
Strokes Specific for the Face
- Down the side of the nose: using either your thumbs or forefingers begin on the bridge of the nose near the eyebrows. With moderate pressure stroke down towards the base of the nose with your fingers simultaneously.
- Smiling face: With thumbs placed together under the nose, simultaneously move thumbs towards the cheek and down towards the chin and back.
- Circles around the jaw: create small circles with your fingertips around the jawline. This should be very gentle.
- Jawline Stroke: begin with fingertips surrounding the ear and simultaneously stroke down along jawline towards the center of jaw.
- Eyebrow Stroke: Move from the middle of the eyebrows, stroking along the brows out towards the sides of the face.
- Ear Rolling: beginning at the top of the ears, roll your fingers along the edge of the ear down towards the ear lobe.
When should I not give a Massage
If your baby has a medical condition, always discuss with your physician prior to giving a massage. Some examples of when to avoid a massage before discussing with a physician would be an acute infection, cardiac or circulatory conditions, orthopedic disorders, or edema related to an injury or heart failure. Open wounds, surgeries, or other skin conditions would require consult prior to giving a massage. Hemophilia, hematoma, and some cancers are also contraindicated for giving a massage. If your child is receiving PT or OT services, it would be helpful to discuss massage techniques that would be beneficial for your child in particular, specifically in regards to hypotonia or hypertonia.
If your baby is upset or distraught, it is best not to give the massage. You want this to be an enjoyable experience for your baby. Sometimes you can talk to your baby and begin with the hands on the chest pressure stroke. If the child calms during this stroke, he may find some calming from continuing the massage. Please read your baby’s cues carefully. It is extremely important to not overwhelm your baby’s sensory and nervous systems.
- Watch out for hair whirls. They can be very disorganizing if stroked over.
- Wait at least 30 minutes after a feeding to provide massage strokes to the belly.
When I became a parent, I knew I wanted to impart my faith onto my family’s next generation. I wasn’t really entirely sure how to do it, aside from the way it was modeled to me through my parents. I’ve had friends that I’ve watched and picked up on little bits and pieces here and there. But aside from that, I wasn’t really sure where to start.
We did the usual praying bedtime prayers, occasionally talk about God, attend church on Sundays, etc. But I truly felt like there was something deeper and more meaningful; I just didn’t know how to get there.
Upon happenstance my husband and I attended a one night seminar at our church for parents. I absolutely LOVED it! It was exactly what I had been looking for and I wanted to learn more. I picked up his book Give Your Kids the Keys: Navigating your Child to a Personable and Sustainable Faith. Within no time at all, I felt like I had little things I could do to help move my daughter into a direction of establishing her own faith and reliance on God. And the biggest thing….she doesn’t have to be grown to do it! I was floored with the way God showed up in her and our family within days of attending the seminar and beginning to read the book. (For example, the next morning, she independently came into my room, picked up my bible, and asked to read about God).
A few things I learned (or were refreshed for me)…
- My 2 year old can pray for people and see God heal them! Yes, powerful! Why do we sometimes believe that children’s prayers are any less powerful than prayers from adults. Honestly, their humility and innocence probably lends themselves to pray more powerful prayers than most adults can pray.
- It doesn’t take a lot to begin the journey. I started talking about God in small ways. Whenever I saw evidence of Him, I shared it with her. And honestly, this really helped open my eyes to all the ways God IS moving in our lives. When you are diligent to point things out to someone else, you begin to see and notice them way more. Instead of saying things like “that’s just the way it is” to her unending “why” questions, I know reply with “God thought it would be beautiful to make it that color so he did” (for example).
- My bedtime prayers with her are much different than they were before. I pray with her modeling how we should pray…for those in need, those who are sick, with thanksgiving, etc. I give her the real nitty-gritty stuff and don’t dumb down my prayers to what I feel is “child appropriate.” I pray for world problems, family problems, finances, health, whatever needs prayer and is on my heart at that time.
- When I do my prayer/devotional time (which isn’t as often as it should be I will admit), I let her do it too. With her bible in hand, I show her how to look through the pictures. Sometimes I’ll ask her to look for a particular thing (such as a rainbow or a bird)…thus teaching her to search the Bible for things or answers. I feel like the bible is usually the last place I look for answers and in all honesty, it should be the first place I go.
- The most recent thing I feel God has placed on my heart is the lack of scripture I can readily recall. As a child, teen, and even young adult I was able to recite, locate, and flip through scripture very easily. Those skills have dwindled over the years. So a habit my family has decided to start is to pick a bible verse of the week. We’ll read that verse daily (maybe even multiple times a day). If my daughter can recite pages from a book that we’ve read only a few times, think of how powerful it’ll be if she begins to be exposed to the word of God in that sort of repetition as well! Not to mention, we’ll be doing it as a family, growing closer to God together! Powerful stuff!
I in no way claim to be an amazing, put together, always on top of it mom! Oftentimes it’s the opposite. Lately, I’ve been feeling a little depressed about how much time I spent doing the daily “stuff” in between my hours at work that I feel I neglect my daughter.
In this current season, I have 2 days home with her during the day. I’ve decided to be intentional with those 2 days. Mondays, I have dedicated to doing a special project with her and on Wednesdays will we will do a special date. There is no expectation that these things need to be grand but I need that intentionality and time set aside in order to feel like I’m actually stopping time and focusing on her.
This last Monday, we spent some time with the finger paints. I went around the house trying to find a variety of sensory things to incorporate into the finger paints to make it different than usual. It was easy to find them…a toilet paper roll, cotton ball, q-tip, salt, popcorn kernals, cookie cutters, and an old make up brush.
There was no rhyme or reason to any of the painting we did! I let her be creative and just spent the time being with her (for the most part! She painted for a very long time so I started getting some stuff done towards the end!)
As an OT, I love this! I’d go into all the details of why but my brain is a little fried at the time. To summarize its a great task for development of sensory skills, attention, creativity, and pre-writing.
My challenge for you today? Take 10 minutes to do SOMETHING with your kids, spouse, family, whoever is in your life. It could be as simple as playing a game of cards, reading a book, or staring at the stars! It’s worth the effort! Trust me!