The back routine is very comforting and is a favourite amongst infants and toddlers alike. This is an excellent way to introduce a short amount of “tummy time” that is important for infant development while also benefiting from the calming effects that a back massage offers.
Simply lay your baby over your lap on his stomach or place him directly on a blanket on the floor. This position will naturally encourage your baby to lift its head. If he is too young and is yet to have neck control, be sure to allow enough room on your thigh for the baby to rest it’s cheek when it gets tired. Your voice is very important during the performance of this stroke, as the baby cannot see you and they will rely on the comfort of your voice to reassure them.
BACK AND FORTH WE GO!
Start with both hands at the top of the back, just below the neck. Mold your hands to the contours of the baby’s back while you glide them back and forth in opposite directions. Picture the action you would use to wring out the water from a towel or when you knead a ball of dough. The movement should be slow and rhythmical while you move from the neck down towards the tailbone, up to the shoulders and back down again.
Rest your one hand on the baby’s buttocks. Starting at the neck, use your other hand to glide down firmly but smoothly towards the buttock. Repeat this swooping stroke several times.
Magical Burping Tip:
If your baby is difficult to burp, the swooping technique can be used as an effective tool to help encourage the release of gas from the lower intestinal tract. Instead of concentrating your burping technique in the upper back, perform swooping several times and then change your baby’s position to an upright one and perform the firm patting motion to the upper back. This change of position is crucial to successful burping, especially until the baby can sit on its own and thus move the gas more easily. You may need to repeat this transitional process from swooping to the traditional burping technique several times.
HEAD TO TOE SWOOPING
This entire body swooping is a great way to promote overall body relaxation and body integration. Support your baby’s feet with one hand and begin the swooping strokes with the other hand starting at the base of the neck and continuing down the legs to the baby’s feet. Repeat.
CIRCLES ALL AROUND, EVEN UP AND DOWN
Using your fingertips, massage small circles on either side of the spine up and down both sides of the back and into the buttocks. Be sure to avoid applying direct pressure on the spine. You are massaging a muscle called the erector spinae, so you may notice that your baby will attempt to straighten their back. This is an excellent way to help your baby improve their body awareness and promote proper development.
With an open palm and fingers spread apart, gently “comb” your baby’s back starting at the shoulders and working down towards the buttocks. With each stroke become lighter each time, you eventually finish this stroke with a very light “feather” touch. This sends the message that you are now finished with the back treatment.
Margaret Wallis-Duffy is a founder of Wallis For Wellness, a Registered Massage Therapist, Internationally Certified Infant Massage Instructor, speaker and a media personality.