The feeling when you become a mother the first time is unspeakable. However, accompanying the joy are things like physical fatigue and a plethora of dilemmas.
One of them is massaging your baby. Should you do it or not? Though it’s said that massaging a newborn baby helps you bond with him/her better, but you are puzzled.
What if it hurts the baby? What if doesn’t suit him? What if his skin develops rashes, etc and etc.
So, let’s answer your queries and doubts about baby massage today and help you learn the process step-by-step.
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What is baby massage?
Baby massage is an activity of gently stroking your baby’s body with the massage oil. It proves to be soothing for the baby and provides you a way to deeply bond with your baby. Because when you massage your baby and cuddle him, it helps you make a deep emotional connection with him.
Is baby massage worth it?
Decide after you read this para about the benefits of baby massage. Massaging a baby not only bonds you better, but has multifold benefits such as:
As per the study by Asian Nursing Research, massaging your baby regularly stimulates his sense of touch which has a positive effect on his social and psychological development. It further accentuates your bonding with the baby.Relaxes the muscles
2. Relaxes the muscles
Massage stimulates the release of feel-good hormone, oxytocin in babies and decreases the level of stress hormone, cortisone. This relaxes the baby, his muscles, and stimulates body growth.
3. Stimulates the nervous system
Baby massage also proves to benefit the motor skills development in babies.
4. Helps the baby sleep better
You sleep better when you feel relaxed, physically and mentally. Same is with your baby. Massage, especially before bedtime stimulates the production of sleep-regulating hormone-melatonin, and thus, helps the baby sleep better.
5. Improves digestion and bowel movements
Massage stimulates the nerves passing through the digestive tract, and thus, provides relief from gas, acidity, colic, and constipation.
6. Enhances blood circulation
Blood vessels get strengthened by massage, thus improving the blood circulation and providing a healthy, nourished skin to the baby.
7. Improves the life quality in differently abled babies
Massage provides a reassuring way to calm down babies with Down syndrome or cerebral palsy. Premature babies gain weight faster and show better emotional, social, and motor development when their mothers massage them regularly.
8. Helps mothers deal with post-natal depression
Not only the babies, but mothers also benefit from baby massage. Depressed mothers or those dealing with post-natal depression show mood upliftment and better behavior if they massage their babies regularly.
Initially, my mother-in-law massaged my baby as I felt worn out. Later, I took up the responsibility and used to really enjoy these sessions with my baby.
He had a good appetite and used to sleep quite peacefully (which I think was due to the massage). He grew up to be an active toddler who used to play, eat and sleep well. Of course other factors like genes, diet etc. play their role, still I found massage to be one of the main contributing factors to the growth of my child.
Now, when you are convinced of the benefits you and your baby receive from massage, it’s time to clarify other doubts you have.
When to start baby massage?
Ideally, you should start massaging your baby a month after birth. This time period ensures:
- The umbilical stump has fallen. The umbilical stump at the baby’s navel takes nearly 15-20 days to fall off and get dry. If you start baby massage before that, the oil may get trapped in the stump and cause infection.
- The baby’s skin is too sensitive at birth and may not tolerate massage immediately. So, wait for a month for his skin barrier to develop efficiently.
- Babies become more responsive to touch by that time.
What’s the best time to massage your baby?
The best time to massage your tiny tot is when he is awake, well-rested, alert, and interested in his environment. This can be:
- Between two feeding sessions when he is unlikely to be hungry or full (give a gap of 45-50 minutes after feeding the baby) OR
- Before a bath OR
- After a bath OR
- Before bedtime
Massage your baby before a bath if:
- You use mustard oil, ghee or olive oil to massage your baby. These oils can irritate the baby’s skin if left too long. So, it’s advisable to wash them off after a massage.
- The weather is hot and humid.
Massage the baby after a bath if:
- The baby has dry skin
- You use coconut, sunflower, or baby oil for massage
If your baby is ill or the weather is particularly cold, it’s always good to massage your baby with clothes on before bedtime.
And finally, we come to the most crucial question!
How to massage your baby?
Before you begin the actual process of baby massage, you need to set up certain things.
Setup for Baby Massage:
- Ensure your hands are clean, soft, and warm before you start the massage.
- Remove all your bangles, bracelets and finger rings.
- Take a clean towel and lay it on the bed or the soft carpeted floor or a smooth table to massage your little one.
- Keep the room temperature comfortable, neither too hot nor too cold. During winters, ensure the room is warm and during summers let fresh air circulate in the room. Don’t use an air-conditioner while massaging your baby.
- Maintain ample light in the room and use as much natural light as possible.
- Keep the bottle of massage oil, few small towels, and baby diaper handy before you sit down to massage.
Which oil is best for baby massage?
As important is baby massage, so is to pick the right oil for your baby. Use ONLY natural oils without any added perfumes/fragrances for your baby massage, otherwise the baby’s skin may react to the artificial oils.
Here is the list of best oils you can choose from:
1. Coconut oil
- It is the topmost choice for baby massage in summers and humid climate.
- It is light in texture and easily absorbs into the baby’s skin.
- Besides offering a cooling effect, it has antioxidants, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties which helps to keep the baby skin moisturized and supple.
- If your baby skin is dry, this oil is an ideal choice for massage after a bath.
The recommended coconut oil is Nature’s Paradise Organic Coconut Baby oil.
It’s 100% natural oil free from Parabens, sulphates, mineral oil and other harmful chemicals. It’s calming fragrance relaxes the baby, and improves the overall skin immunity.
2. Sesame Oil
- Sesame oil, popularly known as “til ka tel” is another alternative to coconut oil for baby massage in summers.
- Oil extracted from the black sesame seeds is loaded with healthy ingredients to aid in your baby’s healthy growth.
The best sesame oil you can use is Mamaearth Soothing Massage Oil for babies. Being free from parabens, lipids, mineral oil, sulfates, and artificial fragrance, it doesn’t lead to any adverse reactions on the baby skin.
Further, it offers a natural blend of several natural ingredients like Jojoba, Almond, Sesame, and Chamomile in one oil. This is particularly helpful if your baby has sensitive skin as Chamomile helps prevents skin allergies and Almond nourishes the skin with Vitamin E.
3. Mustard oil
- It is the best oil for the cold winter months.
- In Indian household, garlic, fenugreek and carom seeds are heated in this oil and used after it has cooled down. (This is quite effective when your baby has a cold or colic).
If you don’t like the odour of mustard oil, you can use olive or almond oil.
4. Olive oil
- It is neutral and slowly gaining popularity in Indian urban households.
- However, be cautious to not use olive oil if your baby has any rash, skin allergy or sensitive skin.
Instead of just the olive oil, a combination of olive oil with ashvagandha works wonders for the delicate baby skin. It not only makes the skin soft and supple, but also tones the skin and retains the moisture in the skin and prevents dryness.
So, if your baby has dry skin, Himalaya Baby Massage oil is the perfect choice for you.
5. Almond oil
- Rich in Vitamin E, it is the best oil for dry skin and baby massage in winters
- Use pure almond oil instead of the fragrant ones
Best oils for sensitive skin
If your baby has a sensitive skin, I recommend using the following oils:
6. Chamomile oil
See the Mamaearth combination oil above.
- This oil is useful if your baby has any rash or skin breakouts
- It also helps to put babies who suffer from colic to sleep better
7. Tea tree oil
Infused with high antiseptic properties, it treats many skin allergies and helps the baby relax after the massage.
8. Calendula oil
It can be safely used for baby massage after a bath and has a soothing effect on him.
*Tip: Before you use any oil on your baby’s skin, dab a little on his hand and see if it is compatible with his skin. If your baby’s skin develops any rash, avoid using that oil.
What is the right way to massage your baby?
The first step is to check whether your baby is ready for the massage or not. Just take some oil in your palms and rub it gently on the baby’s tummy and behind his ears, and observe his body language.
If the baby grumbles or cries when massaging, then it is probably not the right time to give
Here is a step-by-step guide to massage your baby the right way:
Step 1 – Massaging the legs:
- Start with your baby’s feet. Dab a few drops of oil on your palms, rub it, grab the baby’s soles, and begin massaging. Massage the heels up to the toes with your thumbs.
- Use your palm to massage the bottom and top of the baby’s foot. Slowly make circles with your thumb all over the bottom of each foot and then to the toes.
- Ensure to use gentle strokes with thumbs and palms when massaging and avoid any undue pressure. This will help stimulate the nerve endings.
- Then, lift one of the legs and massage gently beginning from the ankle and slowly extending towards the thighs. Repeat it with the other leg.
- End the leg massage by gently grasping the thighs with both your hands and stroking gently from foot to the thighs.
Step 2 – Massaging the arms:
- After the legs, move on to the arms. The pattern of massaging the arms is quite similar to the legs.
- Hold the baby’s hands and make circular strokes on the palms. Slowly massage the baby’s fingers moving towards the tips.
- Turn his hand around and gently massage the back of his hand with straight strokes towards the wrist.
- Then, gently massage the wrists in circular motions like putting on bangles.
- Gently move upwards from the wrist to the forearm and upper arm, massaging in circular motions.
Step 3 – Chest and shoulder massage:
- Make gentle circular movements from the left and right shoulder towards the chest of the baby. Then trace your hand back to the shoulder. Repeat the motion gently.
- Next, place both your hands in the center of your baby’s chest and rub outwards towards the side of the chest.
- Rub gently outwards from the chest bone in heart shape strokes.
Step 4 – Tummy massage:
- Tummy is a delicate area, so avoid even the slightest of pressures.
- Start your massage from the top of the belly right below the chest bone. Place your palm gently below the chest bone and make clockwise circular strokes around the belly button.
- Be cautious to avoid the belly button while massaging the tummy.
Step 5 – Massaging the face and head:
- Place your palms at the center of your baby’s forehead and slowly move outwards along the outline of his face towards the chin.
- From the chin, move your fingers towards his cheeks and massage his cheeks gently in a circular motion. Repeat these strokes a few times.
- After the face, it’s time to massage the head. Take the baby’s head in between your thumbs and index fingers and slowly massage in a circular motion as if shampooing the baby’s hair. Use gentle touch and do not apply any extra pressure since the baby’s skull is delicate.
Step 6 –Massaging the back:
- Finally, turn your baby around. Place him outstretched on his tummy with hands at the front and the head turned sideways.
- Place your fingertips on the baby’s upper back and trace clockwise circles outwards from the spine. Move downwards from upper back to the buttocks.
- Do not place your fingers on the spine. Instead, on both sides of the spinal groove and run them down.
- Make sure you don’t apply any pressure on the spine while massaging.
See this video to understand the baby massage steps better!
Massaging your baby in specific conditions
Baby massage can also provide relief in various conditions such as:
1. Constipation, gas, and colic
Research shows that infant massage helps to ease the symptoms of colic among babies. Follow the steps outlined in tummy massage to give instant relief to your colicky baby.
2. Cough and congestion:
Massage also makes the baby feel better when he is suffering from congestion, cough, and cold. Follow these steps:
Step 1: Mustard oil with garlic and fenugreek seem to be very effective at this point. Use this oil to massage the baby’s chest as you normally do.
Step 2: Gently run your fingertips from the inner end of the eyebrow down to the nose and then to the cheek, massaging the baby’s sinuses. Repeat this motion a couple of times. This helps to release any accumulated mucus present in the sinuses.
Step 3: Lastly, massage the baby’s feet, primarily the soles.
The feeling of warmth generated by massage relieves congestion in the chest caused by cold and repeated cough.
3. Gastroesophageal reflux:
If your baby complains of acid reflux, give him a tummy massage by making him lie at a 45 degrees angle.
Massage helps the baby get rid of the repeated bouts of hiccups. Put your baby on his tummy and massage him from his lower back all the way to the shoulders in gentle circular motions. Do not apply a lot of pressure while massaging.
Premature babies suffering from physiological jaundice get relief from massage followed by half-hour exposure to the morning sun rays.
How often should you massage your baby?
All mothers massage their babies once a day, but what’s more important is to have a fixed massage routine. This helps your baby reap all the long term benefits of massage. If your baby faces certain adverse medical problems, then consult the baby’s doctor about the ideal massage routine.
Things to keep in mind about baby massage
Here are some important points to remember about massaging your baby:
- If at any point during the massage, your baby becomes cranky or irritable, skip that massage step and move to the next one. If he is still irritable, stop the massage. Try to massage him later when he seems more receptive to touch.
- Never massage the baby while he is sleeping.
- Always be gentle during a massage. Never apply too much pressure on the baby’s body since his bones and tissues are very delicate.
- Never massage the genitals or around the groin area.
- Sing a lullaby, laugh, and smile while massaging your baby. Make an eye contact with him and talk with a smile. This keeps him interested in the activity and eventually makes him more cooperative.
- Keep the massage short and sweet, not exceeding 5-10 minutes.
- After massaging your baby, wipe away the oil on his palms and fingers using a tissue paper lest he accidentally ingests the oil while putting his fingers in his mouth.
- Be careful when picking your baby up after a massage. Massage oil can affect your grip and/or make the baby slippery!
- Maintain a fixed time for massage. This helps establish a routine and makes the baby more comfortable during a massage.
When should you stop massaging the baby?
There is no fixed age to stop massaging. You can massage the baby as long as you want, though most mothers stop the massage after weaning their baby.
What can you conclude about baby massage?
A mother-child bond is natural, is eternal. But baby massage adds an extra feather in your relationship. It not only strengthens your bond but gives many health benefits to the baby. (as described above)
So, get ready to give these health benefits to your baby by picking the right oil from the above list and massaging your baby regularly. With practice, you will become an expert at doing it.
Have any baby massage experiences or questions? Drop them in the comments. Would love to know them and help you!
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