Soothing, healing, stimulating … Baby massages have been a daily ritual for centuries in many cultures in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. And with science giving a resounding nod to the power of touch, a nice daily massage may be just what your baby needs to grow well and be happy. So, if you want to make massages a part of your baby’s daily routine, know you’re on the right track!
Stimulate Circulation, Boost Development, And Bond Better With A Baby Massage
Massaging your baby can bring your baby a bouquet of benefits:
- The focused “me” time helps your baby feel loved and safe.
- It improves your baby’s development by encouraging coordination and movement.
- It stimulates various systems of your baby such as the immune system, digestion, and circulation.
- It helps you bond better with your baby.1
1. Choose A Time That Suits You And The Baby
Give your baby a daily massage. But do keep in mind that this isn’t set in stone! If you are stressed or jumpy during a massage, your baby is likely to pick up on these cues. So, work out something that fits into your schedule and go by what your baby likes as well.
In many traditional cultures, massages are part of a baby’s morning routine and given before a bath. While this is a good ritual to keep up, there isn’t really a specific time that’s suitable for all babies. Work out what’s best for your family based on your baby’s needs as well as your schedule. There are a couple of things you should keep in mind while massaging your baby:
Avoid the time right after a feed: A massage right after when they’re full may make them uncomfortable and they may even throw up. Leave a 30-minute gap after any feed.
Check if a bedtime massage works for your baby: Many experts (and grandmommies!) recommend a bedtime massage to help baby sleep soundly. But, sometimes, babies feel stimulated after a massage. This might mean an alert baby on hand just when you’re hoping to wind down! If this holds true for your baby, opt instead for a nice cuddle at bedtime and move the massage to earlier in the day.
Don’t give a massage when the baby is upset or fretful: Look for cues that your baby’s in the right mood for a massage. For instance, when babies are game for a massage, they look content and calm and keep their gaze steady. But if your li’l one goes stiff in your arms or turns away, it’s probably not a good time.
2. Use Coconut Or Olive Oil As a Medium For The Massage
The massage medium should help you glide your hands over your baby comfortably. An edible vegetable oil like olive oil, sunflower oil, or apricot oil should work well. Vegetable oils feel pleasant on the skin and are also rich in vitamins and essential fatty acids that are good for your baby’s skin.
Coconut oil is widely used in India for massaging babies and is good for their skin. However, in cold weather, it tends to solidify. Warm it up in your hands before using it and make sure that you massage in the direction of hair growth to prevent it from clogging your baby’s pores.2 Just be sure to do a patch test, though. While coconut may not technically be a nut, it could still cause an allergic reaction in some.
As a safe practice, do a patch test by applying a little oil on the elbow crease of your baby’s arm the day before you start the massage – even if you’re using a vegetable oil.
Ayurveda also recommends medicated oils like bala oil which contains ingredients like bala (Sida cordifolia), sesame oil, and cow’s milk, and narayan oil, made with herbs like ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), bala, and wood apple (Aegle marmelos), for baby massages.3
If your baby has eczema and needs to regularly apply a prescribed cream any way, you can use it for the massage.
Avoid Nut Oils And Essential Oils
Nut oils like peanut oil may provoke an allergic reaction in your baby and are best avoided for massages. Don’t use essential oils or aromatherapy oils as they may be too strong for your baby.4 5
3. Set The Right Ambience And Gear Up
Preparing for your baby’s massage is fairly easy. All you need is some free time where you’re not interrupted, a room that’s warm and free from draughts, some soft music, and old comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting oily. Do remember to remove any spiky jewelry that might poke your baby before you get started on the massage.
Now that you’re prepared, here’s how you go about massaging your baby.
4. Sit Comfortably And Choose A Secure Area
Traditionally, in Southeast Asia, women sit on the floor with their legs stretched out in front. The baby is then placed on the lap, with the head toward the feet, and massaged.6 If this feels tricky, simply lay a thick sheet or soft blanket on the floor and place your baby on it. Now sit comfortably next to the baby and start the massage.
5. Work Your Way Up From Toe To Top
Follow the steps given below to give your baby a lovely massage.7
Feet And Legs
Begin the massage with your baby’s feet. Slowly stroke the feet, firmly but gently. Your baby will find this kind of touch soothing. Some babies may only be comfortable with a feet massage in the beginning. If your baby doesn’t like being massaged further, stop. If they do seem comfortable, work your way up the legs to the thighs and then go across the baby’s hips.
Place both your hands on your baby’s shoulders and stroke down from the shoulders toward the center of the chest. Or go from the baby’s shoulder down the arms, all the way to the fingers. Make sure you wipe the fingers off when you get oil on them so that your baby doesn’t suck them.
Don’t massage your baby’s tummy if it feels full or taut, or if they start squirming or seem unsettled. Your baby’s abdomen should feel soft when you massage it. Stroke the tummy gently with one hand, clockwise, in a circle. Begin from the lower right side of the abdomen and move up, going in a clockwise direction, ending on the lower left side of your baby’s abdomen.
Stroke across your baby’s cheeks and forehead to massage the face. Use your middle or index finger for the massage. Begin by massaging the sides of the nose and move to toward the outer edge of the face.
Now, Tummy Down And Head To Toe
If both you and the baby are up for one final round, turn your baby on the tummy and glide your fingers down in a few smooth, long strokes, starting at the head and going all the way down to the toes.
6. Finish Off With A Warm Bath
After you finish the massage, give your baby a warm bath and dry off gently. Ayurveda recommends applying the powder of calamus on the adhipati marma or fontanelle at the top of the head after this. Calamus is said to be hot and dry and helps prevent colds.8
|↑1, ↑7||Baby massage. Women’s and Children’s Health Network.|
|↑2||Pauline Carpenter, Thomas-Epple, Anita. Baby Massage and Yoga: An authoritative guide to safe, effective massage and yoga exercises designed to benefit baby. Hachette UK, 2010.|
|↑3||Ranade, Subhash, and Rajan Rawat. Ayurvedic Massage Therapy. Lotus Press, 2009.|
|↑4||Nyssen, Carole. Baby Massage for the VTCT Certificate. Heinemann, 2003.|
|↑5||Fact Sheet Baby Massage. Western Sydney Local Health District.|
|↑6, ↑8||Ranade, Subhash, and Rajan Rawat. Ayurvedic Massage Therapy. Lotus Press, 2009.|