Touch is the most developed sense at birth, so massage is a great way to develop a strong bond with pēpi. Babies learn about the world from the way they are held and touched, and, when you focus on massaging pēpi, you learn about them too.

Why do it?

  • Massaging mum’s belly is relaxing for her and the unborn baby. Managing stress is very important for mum and for baby.
  • Baby’s sense of touch is the first sense to develop. Baby feels it when mum strokes her puku. Massaging mum’s puku is a way of communicating with baby before birth.
  • Massage is a way of responding to baby’s movements in the womb.
  • Touch is the ‘mother of all senses’, and ‘loving touch is baby’s first language’.
  • Gentle massage strengthens the bond between baby and parents (and grandparents, too).
  • Massage helps new parents become confident when handling baby.
  • Massage helps parents learn to recognise baby’s ‘cues’ (a sign that baby needs something).
  • Special massage strokes can help baby with colic and wind.
  • Massage is relaxing for both baby and new mum, so it can help with breast feeding.
  • Massage is very soothing — massaging baby after a bath can be a useful part of the settling-baby-to-sleep routine.
  • Gentle, firm stroking of baby’s skin stimulates baby’s nervous system and their growth and development.

How to do it

  • Massage can be done with or without massage oil.
  • Mum can rub her puku through her clothes.
  • When baby moves, mum or dad can gently rub the place where baby is moving — you’re responding to baby. Baby may then respond to you. You’re playing together.
  • Choose a time when baby is quiet and alert, and have the room warm.
  • Take off any rings or watch.
  • Loosen baby’s nappy or remove it.
  • Lay down a towel or soft cloth for baby to lie on, and a soft pillow for their head to rest against.
  • Sit close and face baby, who should be lying on their back.
  • Put a small amount of oil in your palm and ‘swish’ your hands together.
  • Ask baby if it’s okay to give them a massage.
  • There are several YouTube clips demonstrating baby massage. The strokes differ; but what’s common to all are gentle, slow, firm strokes, while watching baby and making sure they’re okay with what’s happening.  Here is one on colic massage.(external link)

Using more reo Māori

Te reo Māori English
Talk, communicate
Rongo whakapā Sense of touch
Kia māriri tō tānga Press lightly