A group of women sit chattering away but not about the latest fashion or gossip - this is baby talk.

And they rarely take their eyes off the subject of their conversation, their precious little bundle wriggling and gurgling on the mat in front of them.

Every week, this group of eight women meet up for a baby massage class, not only because it benefits their offspring but because it gives them a chance to meet other mums and socialise.

It is a relaxed environment and the mums are shown what to do in the class by Ann Scott, a health visitor trained by the International Association of Infant Massage.

Baby massage is an ancient tradition in many cultures which has been around for centuries.

It shows loving, touching and nurturing contact between the child and the parent or caregiver and has a positive impact on the child's development.

In a series of five-week training sessions, the teacher demonstrates a hands-on method using natural vegetable oil, which isn't harmful to the child, to ensure parents learn the art of massage to suit them and their baby's needs and development level.

Bev Beaumont, another health visitor who teaches baby massage, said it also helps premature babies who may be sensitive to touch after spending time in the special baby care unit.

"They are used to a lot of invasive procedure so they get quite sensitive," said Bev.

Many of the mums in the class said they discovered baby massage after it was recommended to them by their health visitor. But what do they think of it?

Beverley Beattie takes her 17-week-old son Oliver to the class.

"I think it does create a closeness and a bonding,"

said Beverley.

Samina Bramble finds the class relaxing and she says it also helps to calm down her 14-week-old daughter Nyah.

Tracy Woodhead didn't practice baby massage on her son Sam, who is now nine, but she is taking 11-week-old Mia to the class because she said she wanted to try it. She said her daughter was responding well and seemed to like it.

Frances Cleaver finds massaging her 12-week-old son Oscar calms him down at bathtime.

The main benefits of baby massage are that it:-

RELAXES and soothes, relieving stress for the parent and child.

DEEPENS bonding which enhances intimacy and closeness with the child.

This is particularly popular with women who have to return to work after their child is born.

CONTRIBUTES to development by stimulating growth and healthy development of the baby's body, mind and spirit.

AIDS baby's sleep by helping the baby to be aware of daily tensions and how to release them.

REGULATES body functions by helping to strengthen and regulate the digestive, respiratory, circulatory and immune systems.

RELIEVES minor ailments -

massaging relieves colic, wind, constipation, nasal congestion, colds and general unsettledness.

EMPOWERS the parent massage enhances your ability to understand and deal with your baby's needs.

The following baby massage teachers are based in Sussex:

Sue Adams: 01273 501 337 Sally Cranfield: 01273 279691 Lu McClaren-Martin: 01273 558986 Alice Webster: 01424 830768 Dianne Wray: 01424 434287 Hilke Legenhausen: 01444 453182 Liz Nash: 01634 863183 Mary-Anne Hirst: 01892 853800 Jenny Lesley: 01903 603334 Susan Stedman: 01403 733745 Victoria Salter: Email info@

abundant-health.co.uk for details of courses in Sussex.