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As part of studies in Australia, it was found that babies lying on their stomachs helped strengthen their neck and back muscle movements, crucial for other movements such as sitting, crawling, and rolling over. This seemed obvious to me, though it could confuse some people when parents are warned not to allow their infants to lie on their stomachs to sleep. In addition, the findings, published in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, say that it helps curtail early childhood obesity, though how the two were linked were not addressed.

 

It made me think, though, of infant massage, and how we can work the massage with older babies (crawling). Many parents stop massaging when they have a wiggly crawler on their hands. What I have done, and suggest to new moms, is to go with the baby’s movement. Rather than trying to keep the baby on his back when he wants to be on his tummy, let him go onto his tummy. Massage his back, and when he begins to scoot away from you, take his legs and drag him back to you with a fun-sound (of course, you would massage the baby on a soft blanket), then resume the massage. Continue doing this; you can reach his arms and legs this way by modifying the strokes. After this type of play, the baby may succumb to lying on his back and you can reach his tummy, chest, and face. The baby might even enjoy lying across your legs to be massaged in the traditional way.

Father and Baby

Some babies reject massage at this crawling age; I encourage parents to continue loving touch and try to resume massage later on (usually at about 3 years old) when the baby’s autonomy has been established and he is ready to be your baby again.

 

by Vimala McClure

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