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"Why is it so hard to put someone who is already sleepy to sleep?"

#chrissyteigen said this is her biggest parenting conundrum and many parents would agree. 

It’s certainly hard to put a baby to sleep that is overstimulated and over tired. When it comes to baby massage, the most common misconception is that massage should be done before bedtime. Surprisingly, this can actually be the worst time for massage! As any Infant Massage Instructor will tell you, it’s important to remember that just because massage helps with sleep doesn’t mean that massage needs to occur directly before sleep. 

It’s true that massage is relaxing for a baby but it’s also stimulating for their little nervous system. As adults, we think of massage time as pure relaxation but that’s because we have a greater capacity to respond to stimulation of touch receptors with relaxation. For a baby, touch and stroking on the skin is still something their little bodies are getting used to. There’s a whole lot of information travelling back and forth from the brain with vagus nerve activation resulting in positive impacts on mood, immune response, digestion, heart rate and stimulating the gastrointestinal tract. At the same time a baby is usually enjoying eye contact with mum or dad, listening to the sound of their parent's voice and enjoying the smell of mum or dad’s skin being nearby - their favourite smells in all the world! This is a lot to process and while it’s all beneficial it’s certainly stimulating for the nervous system. 

There are two easy ways to tell if your baby is overstimulated by massage prior to bedtime:

·        It’s difficult to get them to go to sleep

·        Their sleep is disruptive or shorter than usual

If you’re looking for baby massage to help with sleep, the best time to massage is pretty counterintuitive. The ideal time to massage is actually when your baby wakes up!

Look for your baby’s ‘quiet alert’ state. There are usually two occasions when a baby will enter a quiet alert state. 

·        One is when they first wake up, or 

·        For babies who cry and want a feed as soon as they wake, the quiet alert state will usually occur directly after their feed.

When your baby is in a quiet alert state, their brain is ready for the combination of stimulation and relaxation that massage provides. 

Using a nice combination of relaxing and stimulating massage techniques, while reading and responding to your baby’s body language cues will help ensure massage time is a success.

If you feel a little unsure when it comes to what techniques to use and how to interpret the body language your baby will use during massage, don’t worry it’s easy to get help from a professional. 

To learn step-by-step baby massage techniques, receive professional advice on what oil to use and to learn how to understand your baby’s cues during massage you can attend a baby massage class or arrange a private home visit from a Certified Infant Massage Instructor (CIMI) or Paediatric Massage Consultant (PMC).

To find a qualified instructor or consultant to work with, contact the Infant Massage Information Service for a free referral. The information service keeps a list of registered baby massage professionals. When you receive a referral through this service you can be sure the professional you’re working with has completed appropriate training and has current professional registration, to provide peace of mind that the information and advice they’re giving you is up to date.