The ritual of massage is one that is enjoyed by both mother and child. However, massaging a tiny baby can seem somewhat daunting to a new mother. So, use these simple steps and apply this age-old technique of soothing and calming infants as well as bonding with them.
Benefits of Baby Massage
There are many benefits to massages for babies –
- Improves the blood circulation to the hands and legs
- Helps with digestion, bowel movements and relief of gas
- Regulates his sleeping pattern
- Boost weight gain, stabilize the heart rate and increase brain activity in premature babies
- Encourages relaxation
- Bonding between baby and their caregiver
When and Where to Massage Baby
Babies generally enjoy being massaged right before their morning bath, since the oil will get washed away when bathing. You could also massage babies before the bedtime bath. The gentle strokes will relax them and help them to sleep better. Avoid massaging if the baby has just been fed, is unwell, asleep, or has had an immunization in the last 72 hours.
The room should be reasonably warm, and the baby should be laid, naked, on a sheet or towel placed on the bed. Play some soft music to create an atmosphere of relaxation and calmness. Ensure that there would be no interruptions for at least five or ten minutes and then begin the ritual of massaging baby.
How to Massage Baby
Before beginning to massage baby, make sure hands are clean and nails are clipped since long nails would scratch and hurt the baby. Warm some baby massage oil or olive oil or any other organic oil that suits baby take some in your palms and rub them together. Smile at the baby and talk in soft, soothing tones, and use the following steps-
Start by gently stroking baby along both the sides of the body and work from the shoulder down to the ankles.
Gently rub the stomach in circular motions and continue this over the chest.
Raise the arms and massage the underarms and then stroke the arms and hands gently and firmly. All the while, keep talking to the baby in soft tones.
Come down to the thighs and massage them gently, going down towards the knees, calves, and ankles. Rub the soles and tops of the feet in small circular motions.
Turn baby over on the stomach and gently massage the back in long, stroking movements. Move your hands over the bottom and backs of the thighs and legs, massaging them as you move down.
Finally, turn baby over on the back and gently massage the scalp in small, circular movements. Keep talking and smiling at baby, gently and softly explaining what you’re doing all the while.
Finish the massage by giving baby a gentle hug and wrap him up in a clean towel.
Things to Keep in Mind When It Comes to Baby Massage
Infants can be massaged from around three months of age and can continue to be massaged as toddlers. In many cultures, it is believed that regular, gentle infant massage improves muscle tone and suppleness of limbs and cleanses the system. The massage can be done daily, twice in a week, or even once a week.
Don’t apply pressure when giving a baby massage. Pressure can be overpowering and your baby will not respond in a positive way. Gentle touch and slow stokes are key here. Especially if you are giving a massage before bedtime or nap.
Make sure to test the temperature of the oil before using it on your little one. The oil should not be too cold nor too hot. Use cold-pressed oils as these are neither refined nor have any additives. Avoid storing large quantities of oil as they may turn rancid. Before you use a new oil, always test a little of that oil on a small patch of your baby’s skin and leave it for 24 hours to check for any reaction. A good place to do this is the thigh area. Do not use the oil if there is a reaction. Wipe and wash it off immediately.
Do not massage your baby if they have any skin irritations – open or weepy wounds, burns, including sunburn, fractures or other acute injuries. Do not massage your baby if you or baby are feeling tired, upset or angry. Do not massage your baby ‘s tummy if your baby has just been fed or has the hiccups.
Use the ritual of baby massage to get more familiar with your baby. Baby massage is a unique and gentle way of connecting with your child, and infants and even toddlers love to be massaged gently and lovingly. So, use this loving way to bond with baby and experience peace and relaxation at the same time.
Wife and mother of twins. Founder of Pride & Joy Baby Planners and The Expecting Mamas Network.