Ever heard of a baby who doesn’t want to be caressed? Babies love to be touched and want you to hold them close as it makes them feel loved and secured. Baby massage is a soothing, relaxing and stimulating activity for your teeny weeny. A simple tummy-rub can make them feel elated, so does a full body massage. Each stroke makes them feel nurtured and delighted.
Baby massage also helps in calming down fussy and restless babies, apart from strengthening the bond between a mother or caregiver and the baby. Baby massage also aids in improving blood circulation, easing colic, inducing sleep, strengthening immune system, and digestion.
Origin of Baby Massage
The use of infant massage was taught by ayurvedic medicine in ancient India. Baby massage was also encouraged during the Qing dynasty in China. This practice dates back to ancient times, especially in Pacific Island and Asian cultures where baby massage forms a part of baby’s routine. Around 1500 BC, India had the first known written massage therapy traditions. The art of infant massage was brought to the United States of America by Vimala McClure (author of Infant Massage, A Handbook for Loving Parents) in early 1970s, after she worked in an Indian orphanage where she observed a twelve year old girl giving massages to all the babies in the orphanage who were malnourished yet they thrived. She attributed this to the massage these children received every day.
What Is Infant Massage?
Infant Massage or Baby Massage is a massage therapy for babies. It is a procedure of rubbing a baby’s muscles with oil or lotions, stroking and rubbing the infant’s ligaments and muscles in a manner especially designed for them. Oils and lotions are used so that your hands glide smoothly over your munchkin’s skin while you rhythmically stroke your baby’s body.
When To Start Baby Massage?
You can start with baby massage when your baby is two weeks old or as soon as the baby is medically cleared to be handled. If you have made your mind to give baby massage a shot then it’s advisable that you begin with baby massage within the first three months as that is the time when babies start developing key intellectual and physical abilities like motor skills etc.
What Are The Benefits Of Infant Massage?
Researches indicate that baby massages reduce the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, thereby contributing to improved sleep and relaxation in babies. By stimulating the release of hormones, like endorphins, baby massage is highly beneficial for relieving the pain of teething, colic, and other distressing conditions.
The concept of deepening the bond of a baby with its mother is emphasized with the love hormone, Oxytocin, which is released during the massage. This hormone enhances the bond and love between the baby and the mother or caregiver. Mothers experience increased production of Oxytocin during labor and breastfeeding. However, researches indicate that even close physical contact and touch helps in stimulating the production of this hormone of love.
Apart from strengthening the bond between a mother and her baby, infant massage is significant for the overall development of the baby and it supports weight gain. Through contact and touching, massaging stimulates the release of hormones and enzymes, vital for promoting growth.
Infant massage may help stimulate growth in preterm babies. Research suggests that baby massage also facilitates healthy weight gain in infants with a history of low birth weight.
By massaging your baby on a regular basis, you are strengthening your baby’s immune system and increasing its resistance to diseases and other health problems. Studies have shown positive results of massaging premature babies, with low birth weight, in protecting them against infections that such babies are more susceptible to.
The very first form of communication with babies is through touch, particularly with newborns. Thus, it is natural and obvious to relate the touch with enhancing the ability of understanding the baby’s special needs and responding accordingly. By massaging your baby, you are likely to increase your confidence and sensitivity to your baby’s unique signals and various forms of communication used by the baby towards you. Babies that receive better responses to their needs end up growing into healthier and secure adults.
Giving your baby a relaxing and soothing massage plays a vital role in stimulating the growth and healthy development of its mind, body, and spirit. Baby massage aids in sensory simulations. As per the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), baby massage may aid in digestive and circulatory systems, thus, helping some infants with conditions of colic, gas, constipation and cramps.
A baby massage is largely associated with reducing irritability and tantrums in babies which may be triggered due to various reasons. A calm baby leads to a calm parent. Also, this loving care provides the baby with more flexible joints and muscles and improved coordination of muscular movement.
The effects of postnatal depression are reduced in the mother, which, in turn, assists the mother to have a better and positive interaction with her baby. Your touch also makes your baby feel secured, loved and cared for. Baby massage helps in improving your little ones skin condition as it provides skin nourishment.
How often should I massage my baby?
There is no rule of thumb to this. The frequency of baby massage depends on you and your baby. Few parents make sure that they massage their babies at least once in a day while many prefer doing it every alternate day. You need to pay attention to your baby’s cues in order to determine the best massage routine for your little one; it may be in the morning or at night before bedtime or maybe both.
Baby Massage Tips and Techniques
The baby should be given a massage when both you and your baby are in a relaxed state of mind. Plan the massage at a time when you will not be interrupted by anyone or any other work. On the other hand, your baby should also be relaxed as it is only when the little one is relaxed that it would be more receptive. Never schedule the massage when the baby is fussy, full stomach, or hungry. When I was raising my children, I usually planned massage for my baby before the morning bath. At times I also massaged my baby at night to stimulate sleep when she signalled to me ‘no sleep tonight’ with her wide grin.
You do not have to light scented candles or dim the light to set the atmosphere for a baby massage. Simply spread out a blanket on a bed or a towel on the floor, or any soft material on a changing table that will allow the baby to switch from its back to its tummy. The room temperature should be relatively warm and draft free to keep the baby comfy and cosy.
Using oils and lotion is optional; however, they are used as they help in gliding the hands smoothly while you massage your baby and also provide nourishment to the skin of the baby.
Natural oils or mineral oils are the best oils to be used on a baby’s delicate and gentle skin, as it may not be resistant to artificially produced oils. Besides, you should also ensure that the oil you are using is safe for your baby’s skin, as some babies’ skin is extra sensitive. Baby oil is a good option, but you can also try odourless and edible oils. Almond oil, sunflower seed, seasame or a fresh bottle of coconut oil can be used for baby massage. Never use oil on the head and face.
Also note, before using any oil, first apply a little oil on a small patch of your little one’s skin to see it’s reaction on your baby’s body. This is important especially for babies with sensitive skin and allergies.
While you begin with baby massage, it is important for you to keep talking to your teeny-weeny to help her calm down. You may repeat her name or sing her favourite rhyme while your move your hands around her body. You may also play some soft music in the background. Your baby’s attention should be completely on you and the massage. Turn off any distractions, such as the mobile or the television.
Place your baby on the soft surface you have prepared and take off its clothes, leaving the diaper on. Rub some oil (optional) onto your palms and gently apply it on your baby’s body.
As you start massaging, the warmth released from your hands will provide comfort and security to your baby. The benefits of this massage are not just limited to the baby. The friction from skin-to-skin contact will help you release your tension and stimulate the nerves.
Use light and delicate strokes on your baby, focusing on the tummy and back. Gradually, move towards the limbs and appendages. If you wish, you can add some butterfly kisses while you massage your baby. You can try different strokes to delight your little baby. Use circular, vertical, or horizontal movements, make hearts on its body, write L-O-V-E on its tummy, or drum your finger on its head and sides. In short, do everything that will amuse your baby.
Is My Baby Comfortable While I Massage My Baby?
Follow your baby’s cues to see its interest and disinterest while you massage your baby. If it is showing lack of interest or is too hyper-active, stop the massage midway. Never try to complete the whole procedure if your baby is unwilling. You can give it a try at a later time. A newborn baby should be given a massage for only two to five minutes, while an infant over two months may enjoy a more elaborate massage.
Massaging is a soothing and fantastic therapy that stimulates parent baby bonding and calms your baby. But don’t hit the panic button as massaging doesn’t come naturally to mommies, daddies or caregivers. In Asia, the massage techniques are usually passed down from mothers to their daughters. You may hire a neonatal nurse to learn the traditional art and techniques of baby massage. Before you decide to go for baby massage, you should first discuss it with your paediatrician about the same.
So mummies and daddies are you all set to give your baby a rubdown? Remember you might not get it right the very first time, or maybe you might have to practice a few times before you crack it but don’t give up. Hang in there as with each massage you are creating a stronger and lovable bond with your bundle of joy. Can you hear your baby telling you “I couldn’t have done it without you” Wink Wink!
Note: This article provides you with general information only. It is not a substitute to any medical advice given by any health care professional. Those who wish to begin baby massage may seek advice from an expert as applying the massaging techniques incorrectly may cause harm to infants and young children. We are not liable or responsible for any actions or diagnosis taken by a user based on the content shared on this website.