Massaging your baby is a unique way of bonding with your infant…
There are many benefits of baby massage as well as techniques and methods. In this article we will discuss all of the above and offer some helpful tips.
Baby massage started in the 1970’s in South Africa as a way to help prematurely born infants who had little or no access to prenatal care. It is believed to even date back to China to the Qing Dynasty. In modern culture, it is a growing trend among new mothers to reduce crying, fussiness and overall stress in newborns and infants.
What are the benefits of baby massage?
- For Your Baby
- general relief from colic and constipation
- reduces pain from teething issues
- raises Serotonin levels thus reducing the risk of SIDS
- boosts the immune system
- may help increase intellectual development
- improves skin texture
- relaxation and improved sleep habits
- increases coordination and body awareness
- overall feeling of security, well-being, love and respect
- strengthens bone structure
- improves digestive system
- strengthens heart rate
- For You
- increases your ability to better understand your baby’s body language, cues, rhythms and patterns
- boosts your confidence as a parent
- reduces stress after extended periods of separation
- gives both parents (or caregivers) a chance to bond with your infant
- reduces Postpartum Depression.
Is it safe for me to massage my baby since I am not a trained professional?
Extreme caution is needed when practicing baby massage. You must be delicate and gentle so as not to inflict pain or harm to your newborn. If you are not used to handling a newborn, it is essential that you receive proper training from a licensed massage therapist or professional. There are no health risks or side effects that have been recorded from infant massage when it is properly performed after proper instruction from a licensed individual who specializes in baby care.
What are some tips on how to safely and effectively perform baby massage?
- Remove any rings, bracelets, etc and make sure your fingernails are smooth, and debris free so you will not scratch or cut your baby.
- Wait until at least 45 minutes after a feeding as massaging too soon after eating may induce vomiting.
- Read your infant’s mood. If he/she is tensing up upon your touch or turns his/her head away from you, it might not be the best time for a baby massage. Wait until the baby is receptive to massage
- Make sure you have a warm, quiet environment with soft lighting.
- Make sure you are relaxed as well. If you are tense and anxious yourself, this is not the time for infant massage.
- Maintain eye contact and communicate with your baby in soft, soothing tunes. Sing to your baby. Keep him/her engaged
- Use gentle and soft strokes and never apply too much pressure, especially to the neck and spine area.
- Never awaken your infant specifically for the purpose of a massage.
- Have your supplies ready beforehand (towels, oil, clean clothes, diapers, wipes, etc)
- Test your baby’s skin for allergic reactions prior to the first time you are using the oil and wait a day to see if there are any adverse reactions.
- Use an oil that is room temperature or slightly warm. Never apply oil that is hot or cold to the touch. If it’s too hot or cold for you, it’s even more so for your newborn.
- Experts suggest using a plant or vegetable oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil as these absorb quickly and are easily digested if your baby should ingest a little. Make sure the oils are organic, unrefined and cold pressed. Research the oil before you use it or ask a professional to ensure it is safe to use.
- Follow the baby’s signals as to when to end the massage. If your baby seems distressed, agitated or restless, gently end the massage and calm your baby.
- Do not massage any areas where there are cuts, scrapes, bruises, injuries, broken or irritated skin, or any other sensitivity issues.
- Start with a short massage the first time and gradually increase the amount of time as you and your baby become acclimatized to the procedure.
- Try to make baby massage a part of your daily routine.
What are some recommended techniques for baby massage?
First of all, remember the above tips! Next you want to remove your baby’s clothes and place him/her on a soft blanket or towel. Make sure the oil is handy in a non-breakable container. Cradle your baby in your arms with their head resting on your feet. Give a “test” massage gently on the foot to see how your baby responds. If the response is positive, gently begin the massage one area at a time. An average massage should last between 10 minutes and half an hour.
Below are a few basic techniques for baby massage. There are plenty of books, videos and other helpful resources available on infant massage. Remember to take a course or seek advice from a professional trained in the art of baby massage.
- Hold the baby’s head with both hands and gently massage the scalp, avoiding the soft spot. Massage behind the ears with your thumb and forefinger. You should massage the eyelids, cheeks, eyebrows, forehead and the bridge of your baby’s nose.
- Hold the knees together and gently lift them toward your baby’s abdomen, just a few times, as this helps relieve gas. Place your hand on the tummy and gently massage from one side to the other. *Note all movements should be in the direction of the heart, NEVER away!
- Gently hold the wrist and massage the arms going upward to the shoulders. Massage your baby’s palms by gently stroking your thumb down his/her fingers.
- Holding your baby’s ankles, softly massage the legs using upward movements only going toward the thighs. Using circular movements, use your fingers and thumbs to massage your baby’s legs.
- Slowly turn your baby on its belly and massage his back starting at the buttocks, using the heel of your palm.