Everyone loves a good massage—including your baby. Though the idea of giving your infant a massage might seem new to you, the practice has actually been around for thousands of years, with evidence of it first appearing in places like India and China (yoga, tai chi, and now infant massage—Eastern medicine has everything). Because massage is part of the Ayurvedic medicine philosophy, Indian mothers used massage as a way to help their new babies digest food, improve their mood, and help them sleep more deeply.
What is Baby Massage?
Similar to regular massage, baby massage is gentle, rhythmic stroking of your baby’s body, usually with your hands. To soften the skin and make the massaging more therapeutic, you can even add in organic massage oils or moisturizers made for infants. Typical massage routines involve gently manipulating the baby’s ankles, wrists, fingers, and toes. While doing so, you might want to speak, sing, or hum to the baby to make the session even more enjoyable for the both of you.
The Benefits of Baby Massage
The benefits of infant massage are numerous, and over 100 studies have confirmed that massaging your baby even offers relief from a wide range of common ailments and pains, like gas, bloating, colic, and sleeping issues.
Other benefits of baby massage include:
- Facilitating weight gain – a study proved that premature babies who receive “touch therapy” gained 47 percent more weight than those who didn’t receive any massages. This is potentially due to a more healthy digestive system and better circulation.
- Reduces stress – massage is known to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and prompt the release of oxycontin, a feel-good hormone.
- Creates strong bonds – Skin-to-skin contact reinforces the bonding experience for both you and your baby, especially if you are struggling with postpartum depression.
- Enhances learning – Massage has been shown to wake people up and make them more alert. The same happens to infants, because it counts as tactile stimulation that helps babies respond better to audio-visual learning.
- Calmer heart beat and more stable heart rate.
And that is just the beginning for what baby massage can do for both you and your little one. There’s no reason not to try to it.
When to Start Baby Massage
The age of your baby doesn’t matter as much as the when and where you give the massage. You should choose a place that is free of disruptions, comfortable, and calm. The room should also be on the warmer side, around 24 degrees C (76 degrees F). It is your choice whether you want to keep your child dressed or let them lay in the nude for the awhile, since you will mainly be massage the arms, legs, fingers, toes, and face.
Baby Massage Techniques
If sounder sleep is but one reason to try massage, it’s definitely something worth a try! Her are all the best baby massage techniques and how to do them safely to make your baby relaxed and happier:
- Start at the face, using your thumbs to gently massage the middle of your baby’s forehead, between the eyebrows. Do this a few times, fanning out along the brow and towards the temples.
- Gradually leave the space between the brows and forehead. Focus on the temples now, making light strokes towards the back of the cranium.
- Now, move towards the nose. This is great if your baby has some nasal congestion. Rotate the tips of your fingers in light circles around the sinuses, up and down the bridge of the nose to the tip.
- Place both fingers on either side of the nose then run them outwards towards the ears along the cheeks. Do this a few times.
- Beneath the nose, put both fingers right underneath each nostril then make the same motion you did previously but along the top lip instead.
- Start at the feet, picking up one leg at a time to make soft strokes along the bottom of the foot. If you want, you can use some oil to work between the toes.
- Once you have worked some light circles into the soles of the foot, you can move towards the back of the ankle and top of the foot.
- Take one leg between your hands and make light circles. Switch legs. You can do this a few times.
- Next, make long strokes from the ankles, to the shins, and up to the thighs. Use the whole surface of your palm.
- At the end, if you think your baby has some extra gas to get rid off, you can cycle their legs in a bicycle motion to help relieve them of that.
- Begin at the top of the shoulder and run your hands down the arms to the fingers. Do this a few times.
- Next, taking one hand at a time, you can work each finger between you own with gentle “rolling” motions. Don’t use too much pressure here.
For the belly, massage with your thumbs in a clockwise direction, which is the same way a baby’s digestive system moves to relieve gas. Don’t apply pressure to chest, only the belly.
Lastly, flip your baby over and gently run the tips of your fingers down the length of their spine. You can also do some light kneading, but be careful around the rib cage.
How you choose to approach the massage session is up to you. You might not always want to do the same motions or focus on the same places. However, your baby will thank you if you come up with a routine.
Baby Massage Safety Tips
Now that you know how to do some massages for your baby, you should also know what not to do. Promote a safe environment by NOT doing the following:
- Never put massage oil on your baby’s face. The oil can drip into eyes, noses, and mouths, making your baby uncomfortable or even sick.
- Never massage the top of the skull. You can damage the soft spot.
- Never make the massage longer than 5-10 minutes in length.
- Never give your baby a “deep” massage, since their skin and bones are much weaker than an adult’s.
- Never ignore signs that your child has had enough. Those signs include squirming, crying, or falling asleep.
- Never use oils that contain ingredients like artificial dyes, parabens, perfumes, PEG or EDTA. You should also avoid using vegetable oils like peanut oil or those you use for cooking, since these can aggravate the skin. Again, the best oils for infant massage would be coconut oil, which can also be used on their bums, or shea butter with coconut oil.
- Never use essential oils that are undiluted, as this can cause allergic reactions, irritations, and even detox responses, all of which are unsafe.
Also, you will want to be careful about picking your child up after a massage, especially if you used oils. Babies are already slippery. Imagine them covered in massage oil.
There is no doubt that massaging your baby is going to be a wonderful experience for you both. Not only do you get to bond during this short period, but you are giving your baby some one-on-one time while fighting gas, making them feel calmer, and even helping them sleep more soundly. Just remember that the key to infant massage is to be as safe and quiet as possible. The most important thing though is to keep up with massages once you start!
Enjoy the bonding time with your baby and have fun!
If you have ever gave your infant a massage, let us know about your experiences, what oils you used, and what benefits it had. We would love to hear from you.