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Breastfeeding and Massage


Breastfeeding and massage are not two topics you usually see together, however it can be a really useful tool in your postpartum and feeding journey. A newborn baby is primed to spend as much time as they can up close (preferably skin to skin). Skin to skin contact in humans is evolutions way of keeping us warm, keeping us connected, it helps regulate heart and respiratory rate, and allows us to respond to our babies subtle cues so their needs are met. Parents instinctively hold babies in close, and stroke their heads, their tummies, their back, and this in turn makes both the baby and parent feel more relaxed. Why? Because touch is an essential part of normal development and continues to be an important social and emotional tool throughout life. During infancy it is an important way we form secure attachments with our caregivers (Cascio et al., 2019).

A study published in the Journal of Perinatal Education in 2019 found that postnatal massage can improve breastfeeding outcomes, increasing milk production and reducing breastfeeding difficulties (Mason, 2019). This is not surprising as massage therapy has been shown to reduce cortisol levels and increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety (Field, 2019) which all helps when breastfeeding and the release of oxytocin, the 'love' hormone responsible for the milk ejection reflex (letdown reflex). Massage therapy has benefits for both parent and for baby.

So how might massage be a useful tool in your feeding journey?

Massage for Baby

  • Baby massage helps reduce stress, helps baby feel safe and warm and relaxed.

  • Helps relieve tummy symptoms such as trapped wind, constipation and colic.

  • Can help improve sleep.

  • Boosts immune system.

  • Opportunities for skin to skin and bonding time.

  • Can help stimulate brain development and increase sensory awareness.

  • Massage can be used as a tool to help support premature babies and infants with complex medical needs.

Massage for Parent

  • Increases relaxation, reduces stress and improves sleep.

  • Helps treat aches and pains caused by holding, lifting and carrying baby, car seats, baby changing, feeding etc.

  • Aids in the recovery from pregnancy and birth.

  • Helps bonding with baby and gives an opportunity to spend quality time with baby.

  • Helps support those with postnatal depression and anxiety.

  • Helps reduce cortisol and adrenalin (stress hormone) and increase oxytocin ('love' hormone needed for breastfeeding).

  • Give parents tools to help manage with the early days of parenthood.

  • Allows parents to become more aware of their own bodies and allows them to reconnect with their bodies and how they should feel after the huge transformations of pregnancy and childbirth and breastfeeding.

What to expect of postnatal massage?


A postnatal massage appointment is longer than a usual appointment so that it gives us time and space to go through your medical history, including your pregnancy and birth journey. This is often a chance to talk through and process the changes that you have gone through in a different setting, with somebody who is compassionate and understanding of the rollercoaster it can be. We often have babies attend in clinic with you (although if you would prefer some time and headspace away from baby, then this is also completely fine and common) so the treatment room is equipped with a comfortable sofa to sit and feed, space to change and hold baby. We have a floor mat and travel cot available if you would like to put baby down, or lots of parents bring a pram or a car-seat. The treatment bench is extra wide and electronically height adjustable so you can have a massage whilst holding baby if needed. As a newly postpartum parent, lying on your tummy (and breasts) can be uncomfortable, especially if you have had a c-section or if your breasts are still adjusting to their milk supply, so I have a pregnancy pillow with wonderful cut-out sections for breasts and belly, which comfortably supports your body in non-tender places.


I can provide a massage tailored to your needs so if you have any specific areas of concern I can work on those, or it may be a chance to lie down and relax, or fall asleep! I try to include a foot massage as standard if this is something you enjoy, as feet are so often forgotten about in massages!


What to expect of baby massage?


Baby massage is a gentle and safe tool, following baby's cues at all times and using hypoallergenic, unfragranced and skin friendly massage oil.

As a baby massage instructor, I can demonstrate techniques you can use at home (much like a 1 to 1 baby massage class) and explore how baby massage may be beneficial to you as a pair.

I am also a breastfeeding counsellor so we can explore any breastfeeding concerns and signpost you to local areas of further support if needed. Massage can be used as a tool to support your breastfeeding/chest-feeding journey both in clinic and at home.


In conclusion, massage during the postnatal period and your breastfeeding journey can be really beneficial in encouraging bonding with baby, providing an opportunity for skin to skin, aiding sleep and relaxation for both parent and baby, which in turn reduces cortisol and adrenalin and boosts oxytocin which is essential in breastfeeding/chestfeeding. It is often a space and time in which you can quietly take time for yourself and have someone else care for you, so that you can better support your baby and your family.





References:

Cascio, CJ., Moore, D., McGlone, F. (2019). Social Touch and Human Development. Developmental and Cognitive Neuroscience 35, 5-11 [Online]. Available at: Social touch and human development - ScienceDirect (Accessed 08.06.2023).


Field, T. (2019). Massage therapy research review. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 35, 115-119 [Online] Available at: Massage therapy research review - PubMed (nih.gov) (Accessed 08.06.2023).


Mason, M. J. (2019). The effects of postpartum massage on breastfeeding outcomes. Journal of Perinatal Education, 28(1), 13-19.



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