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Everybody loves a relaxing massage even our little ones. A baby massage is a process of using gentle strokes along with a lubricant like lotion or massage oil over the skin of your baby.
It promotes a loving and secure bond between the baby and the parent/caretaker. It helps on build on trust and confidence of the baby and expresses the feelings of being loved.
It may help to calm a colic baby , prevent gas and other digestive issues like constipation(2).
it is great way to spend time with your little one, helps to control your stress levels, helps in physical and sensory development of the baby and is a smoothing therapy for the baby and the mother.
There are many research work that support baby massaging since they show significant benefits for the baby (3) . Initially, a baby may not start enjoying the massage but eventually comes fond of it.
Several benefits provided by massage are (4):
• Promoting a healthy and loving bond between baby and the parent/caretaker
• Providing security and comfort to the baby
• Builds on feeling loved and protected
• Helps in physical and sensory development of the baby
• Improves circulatory system of the baby
• Induces a better sleep pattern when done just before bedtime as it increases the melatonin (sleep hormones) levels (5)
• Helps in improving motor skills of the baby
• Has a smoothing affect
• Improves quality of life (6) in premature, down’s or cerebral palsy babies
• Increase mind awareness
• Helps in teething discomfort
• Improves digestive issues like colic or constipation
• Improves flexibility and muscle tone in baby
• De-stressing exercise for both baby and the mother
• Helps in better muscular development of the baby
• May help in getting relieve from hiccups
• Post vaccination , a localized massage near site may help in enhancing the immunogenicity of the DPT vaccine (7)
You can start massaging with very gentle stokes and nurturing touch from day one of life. Kangaroo mother care or skin-to skin contact should be initiated right after birth.
A more dedicated and stimulating massage session can start after few weeks (3-4 weeks).
Best time for massages are generally before bath time and before bedtime or whenever you feel the baby is calm, well rested and more sound to his/her surroundings . They help the baby to relax and sleep better.
Avoid massaging right after feeds (at least wait for 44-60 minutes) or even your baby is very cranky and is tiring to avoid the massage. It shouldn’t be enforced on the baby.
There is no specific time or period during which the baby should be given a massage. It is better to include in his/her daily routine at a particular time and place. Following it up with bath time helps to get rid of left over residual lotion or baby massage oil.
One should avoid using any kind of oil for massaging the baby before they are one month old (8). This helps in preventing loss of moisture and any allergic reaction to the oil since the baby’s skin is delicate and has not developed protective barrier for itself. In premature babies the skin is more delicate, thin ,can be easily damaged and they take longer time to form the protective barrier.
Once the baby is one month or older , you can start using oils as the baby’s skin develops its protective barrier and becomes thicker than what it was during birth.
There are multiple options available in the market for massage oil. Best thing to use is cold-pressed organic oil since they have fewer impurities and are less reactive.
Though there isn’t enough evidence on its benefits but cold pressed coconut oil is best tolerated by the baby’s skin(9). It helps in good hydration and aids in weight gain (10).
One can use mineral or petroleum based oils/lotions for massage if the baby has skin issues like eczema or dermatitis. They are found to be more effective and helpful.
One may heat the oil a little bit to use during winters or to rub on the chest and sole of the baby when he/she is suffering from a cold/congestion.
• Mustard oil – it interrupts the protective skin barrier
• Olive oil- as it has high oleic acid which results in drying of the skin
• Peanut oil- show allergic reaction
• Sunflower oil- it may be used
• Choose a particular time and place for massaging.
• The baby should be comfortably placed on a massaging mat or on a clean towel in front of you.
• The person giving a massage should also be comfortably sited.
• Before taking off baby’s clothes make sure the room temperature is maintained- keep it warm during winters and during summers make sure the room isn’t too hot.
• Use an organic fragrance-free cold pressed massage oil.
• Lay out the towel/ massage mat and put a small dry sheet over it where the baby has to be placed. It avoids the towel or mat getting soiled if the baby urinates during the massage
• Remove baby’s clothes, its best time to give baby “nappy-free” time.
• Start talking to your baby and make eye-to eye contact throughout the process
• Seek permission from the baby that you would like to give him/her a massage, check if the baby is happy and interested in the surrounding.
• Take few drops of oil and start with the feet. Massage the bottom/sole of the baby’s foot in a circular movement with the help of your thumb and repeat the same for the toes, repeat same for the other foot and toes.
• Then lift the one leg at a time and start gentling stroking in forward direction (towards the heart) from the ankle level till the thighs. Carry it out in a circular manner following a straight line with help of tip of your fingers and then massage using straight strokes with help from your palm from ankle till thigh level. Repeat it for 10-15 times on each side.
• Massage the knee and ankle very gently in a circular motion.
• Take few drops of oil and start with the hands. Massage the palm of the baby in a circular movement with the help of your thumb and repeat the same for the fingers, repeat same for the other hand and fingers.
• Then lift the one arm at a time and start gentling stroking in forward direction (towards the heart) from the wrist level till the shoulder level. Carry it out in a circular manner following a straight line with help of tip of your fingers and then massage using straight strokes with help from your palm from wrist till shoulder level. Repeat it for 10-15 times on each side.
• Massage the wrist and elbow very gently in a circular motion.
• Take few drops of oil and start with the stroking gently the right and left shoulder bringing it down the arms .
• Move your hand along the right and left shoulder towards the chest of the baby.
• Place your both hands in center of the chest and move them outwards to the side and downwards forming a heart shape while massaging the chest.
• Use very light pressure while doing the massage
• Start making circular clockwise strokes along the belly button
• Then with help of your fingertips start stroking from the left corner of the belly, go up and turn right forming a vertically line and get go down towards the right corner, forming an inverted U.
• Second massage technique is forming a L shape, starting from the left corner of the belly and then turning towards the right at the level above of the belly button.
• Fold both legs in a cycling fashion , it helps to release gas ,prevents colic episodes and is good exercise for the legs too.
• Use very gentle touch for the face. Start off with very little oil.
• Massage for forehead with tip of your fingers in a circular movement starting from the center and move down towards the temple.
• Slightly press the forehead with the help of palm of the hand.
• Then for nose, pinch the nose gently near the nostrils and move your finger and thumb upwards towards the bridge of your nose applying gentle pressure.
• Massage the upper lip and chin by applying slight pressure in the downward direction and move towards the side.
• Gently massage the cheeks in a circular fashion and move from the chin towards the temples.
• For the head use the same technique while shampooing, move your hand and fingers in a circular fashion.
• Put the baby on his/her tummy and take some oil and start massaging the back.
• Place your both hands in center of the back and move them outwards to the side and downwards forming a heart shape while massaging the back.
• Use your thumbs of both hands, placing them on the side of the spine on both left and right side and then gently move the thumbs from the upper part of the spine till buttocks.
• Then with help your palms placed vertically on the back from the top till the level of button, quickly move your palms up and down gently stroking and massaging the entire back.
• For getting relieve form hiccups it is better to keep baby in sitting position, however can be done with baby in tummy side down lying position. Start massaging from bottom level upwards till the shoulders in a circular fashion.
• Use both hands and place them at the outer border (c shaped) of the butt and push your hands together giving the butt a slight upward lift. Repeat it 5-10 times.
• Seek permission from the baby before starting
• Use an organic, fragrance-free and a mild oil
• Keep talking to the baby, smiling and laughing while massaging
• Maintain constant eye contact with the baby
• Make sure the temperature of the room and the oil are comfortable.
• Try maintaining a routine , choose a particular place and time for massage.
• Use very gentle strokes and pressure since the baby has fragile bones and delicate skin.
• Before taking off the baby’s clothes have all the necessary items ready with you.
• Don’t forget to wipe off the excessive oil/lotion, better to follow it up with a bath or sponging the body clean with wash cloth.
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