Touch is a baby’s first language and it is through our hands that we speak to our baby and communicate our love and care.
The benefits of Baby Massage have been enjoyed in many cultures around the world for thousands of years. Popularity is quickly growing in the Western world, as current research clearly shows the myriad health benefits it provides for a child’s physical, mental and emotional development and wellbeing. Baby Massage is playful and fun for parents and babies alike.
Recent medical research has proven the benefits of the same. Studies have shown that premature babies when regularly massaged require minimum hospitalization. All newborns show healthy growth, more weight gain and thrive better if they are massaged well and regularly. A good oil massage soothes and calms a baby, helps him/her to relax and sleep better and makes him/her more alert during the waking hours.
- Choose a moment in which you and your child are relaxed and calm. A half hour after the baby has eaten is recommended.
- Be sure that the room temperature is warm (78 degrees Fahrenheit). Undress the baby completely, if the weather is cold or humid cover the areas of the baby’s body that are not being massaged.
- Put the baby on a soft surface so your baby will feel comfortable and secure. Keep some little pillows handy.
- It is a good idea to put some cream on your hands and rub them together so they will be soft and warm.
- Pour a little baby oil or pure vegetable oil onto your palms and rub your hands together to warm them and the oil.
- Basically the massage flows from the head to the toes. With soft and gentle touches you will work on the head, face, shoulders, arms, chest, stomach and legs.
- While you massage your baby look tenderly at him/her. Doing this you stimulate all the senses of the baby and establish a more intense visual and tactile communication. Feel free to speak to your baby, do not inhibit yourself.
- Remember that your touches should be tender do not make mechanic motions. Try to be flexible by not keeping a rigid routine.
- If the baby wants to change position let them do so. Do not force your baby to keep a position, you can go back to these areas later on.
- Pay attention to your baby’s response: If he doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself, try a lighter touch, or simply stop.
- If a baby has been vaccinated recently, or has rashes or wounds (including the clamped umbilical cord) avoid those areas while massaging.
- Wrap up baby warmly after a massage.
Pressure to use:
Close your eyes and press your eyelids. The pressure you should use is the same as pressing your eyelids without any discomfort.
In the small areas use your fingertips. In bigger areas use the palm of your hand. “Little strokes” mean to touch your baby’s skin gently and “massage” is to softly move the muscles under the skin.
Physical benefits for the baby:
- Improves quality of sleep
- Tones digestive system – relieving wind, constipation and colic
- Strengthens immune system
- Strengthens nervous system and aids neurological development
- Reduces levels of cortisol (stress hormones)
- Stimulates circulatory and lymphatic systems
- Increases oxygen and nutrient flow to cells
- Improves respiration
- Improves muscle tone and moisturises skin
- Improves sensory and body awareness
- Encourages movement and coordination
- Can relieve discomfort from teething
- Improves general well-being
Emotional benefits for the baby:
- Communicates love, trust and respect
- Establishes a close and loving bond
- Provides emotional security and stability
- Promotes relaxation
- Stimulates alertness and broadens sensory perception
- Helps relieve birth trauma
- Builds confidence and self-esteem
- Promotes positive body image
Baby Massage in India:
Baby massage has a long tradition in India. Just after birth, a cleansing massage is done with a soft wheat-dough ball, to which a little almond oil and a dash of turmeric is added. Just before rubbing the ball is dipped in a bit of almond oil. This practice is continued for the first six days after birth, before the bath. Ayurvedic baby massage enhances circulation, helps in the expulsion of toxins and aids the digestive system of the baby.
On the seventh day after birth, actual baby massage with the dough ball starts and this goes on every day for 3 weeks. The dough ball should be dipped in oil every now and then, which helps to keep the 3 doshas in proper balance. Massage with the hands begins when the infant is one month old, when the baby’s body has become strong enough. The baby massage is continued every day for 3 months, during which the most time is spend in massaging spine, back, neck, waist, hands and feet, because these parts need to gain strength to support the body.
Once the baby starts lifting its head on its own and supporting its body weight on its arms, more general daily body massage should continue for 18 months. The massage of the spine nevertheless remains an important aspect of infant massage. After this time, baby massage can be given on alternate days, though a daily massage routine will aid in making the child strong and happy.
Frequently Asked Questions: Baby Massage
1. Why learn a particular massage routine? To a baby, touch is talk. The routine taught in the video has been passed down from mother to daughter in India for centuries. There is a rhythm to it that is hard to duplicate in other ways. Why reinvent the wheel? It can be a daily ritual that lets you center yourself, and connect deeply to your baby.
2. Why follow a set routine? The value of doing the same thing over and over exactly the same is that you can forget about “how” to do it and just flow with the rhythm. Following a set routine will help your baby know what to expect, and the massage will be deeply satisfying and relaxing for both of you. All loving touch is beneficial, and you must touch your baby in new and interesting ways, too, but at times other than during the massage. There may come a time when the child’s life is disrupted. Perhaps a move, a hospitalization, some upheaval in the child’s world. You will be able to use your routine to connect with, and settle the child.
3. Why every day? A day is a very long time to a baby. Remember when you were 12, and time moved more slowly? That was because one year was 1/12th of your life experience. Have you noticed how time seems to move faster as the denominator changes? (When you are 28, a year is 1/28th of your life, for example). A baby gains a huge amount of life experience EVERY DAY. To a baby, touch is important for growth, and for developing an understanding; slowly, that they HAVE a body with arms and legs.
4. How long does it take? 20 to 30 minutes! A baby isn’t very big, you can do a complete massage in that time. But give yourself, and your baby, time to learn the strokes. At first, you will be referring to the video, which covers 5 sessions worth of information. You will watch the complete massage, at the end of the video, to get a sense of the rhythm. Then, you will be referring to the grease-proof card, provided in the video as you practice. And finally, you – and your baby; will develop your own rhythm.
5. My baby doesn’t seem to like massage, now what? How to start slowly, with the legs, is discussed in the video. You may have to be persistent to get your child into a massage rhythm with you. This child needs it even more than others, it is worth persisting. A baby can’t even turn over, or can’t move about as we do if their muscles get sore and cramped. They may be uncomfortable, and at first, just as when you get a back-rub, they become MORE aware of the discomfort in their body. Follow your baby’s lead, continue to offer small amounts of massage a few times a day.
6. What happens when they get older? The two of you will modify the routine to something that works for you. You may find as they go through important developmental stages that they won’t want a massage, as they are concentrating on whatever task they are trying to learn. When they have passed this particular stage they may settle into the massage routine again. It may depend on their personality. Some children never stop once they are up and running, others will still want the bedtime routine of the massage. Some mothers just massage whatever part appears in front of them as the child moves around (see this in the introduction of the video). They may act like they aren’t noticing but they are. Toddlers like to rub themselves with lotion. Older children may want a back-rub or leg rub as part of the good-night routine.