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Massaging your baby is one of the best ways to calm and soothe him. Massage also offers tremendous health benefits to a baby. It helps improve blood circulation, helps in weight gain, and aids digestion. It also eases teething woes for a baby. What’s more! It also strengthens the bond with your child. But if you’re a first-time parent, you’ll have certain questions about massaging your baby. We’ve put together a guide on the benefits and techniques (and more) that will tell you everything you need to know about baby massages.
Video: How to Massage a Baby
What is Baby Massage?
Baby massage involves stroking a baby’s body in gentle and rhythmic strokes with hands. You may use oils, creams or moisturisers for massaging as it is helpful in making the massaging strokes smoother. You may massage the chest, tummy, back, arms, legs and head of your baby. Singing or humming to your baby during a massage helps the baby to feel relaxed and calm. Massaging your baby aids in the release of the feel-good hormone, also known as oxytocin, in your baby and you. The release of oxytocin helps in generating a feeling of love and warmth.
Benefits of Massage for Your Baby
Babies love the touch of their parents, and it is one of the ways of communicating with your little one. You may even notice that a crying or irritable baby can be put at ease by cuddling, hugging, or stroking their back. Massaging is an extension of touch and thus has many benefits for your baby, such as:
1. It is Good for the Baby’s Health
Massaging helps in improving blood circulation and gastrointestinal functions. It also has physiological benefits for your baby which include improved breathing.
2. It Relaxes the Baby
By calming the nervous system, massaging helps your baby’s colic and sleep problems. Massaging also relaxes the baby’s muscles and provides nourishment to the skin.
3. It Strengthens the Bond
Massaging is one of the most effective ways of bonding with your little one as while massaging your baby you get to spend some intimate moments with him. It also helps you to understand the needs of your baby.
4. It Provides Relief to Your Baby
Massaging the tummy of your baby helps to ease various stomach related problems, such as gas, constipation and even colic.
5. It Helps You Become More Confident in Handling Your Baby
Massaging is an excellent way of getting to know your newborn baby, and you also get confident in handling your baby. Spending time with your baby helps you in getting cues about your baby’s needs and requirements.
Best Time to Give a Massage to Your Baby
The best time to give massage to your baby would be when your baby is not hungry, sleepy, or tired. You may choose any time of the day for the massage—morning or evening. Baby massage is an efficient way of getting your baby into the routine of bathing, feeding and sleeping.
It is recommended to follow a massage routine by doing the things in the similar order every day. This is because your baby loves predictability, and developing a routine will help your baby to know, what is going to happen next. The predictability also gives your baby a sense of security and happiness.
It is also a good idea to massage your baby, just before bedtime. Massaging before bedtime can help your baby sleep better and longer during the night. Although initially, you may find it difficult to set a pattern or routine for your newborn baby, as your baby grows, you will be able to make a set routine for your baby.
Many new mothers often wonder when to start baby massage? Well, it is recommended to wait for 10 to 14 days before you start off any oil or lotion massage for your newborn baby. Though for preterm or premature babies, it is advised to seek your doctor’s approval before starting any massage.
What Should You Do Before Massaging Your Baby?
The very first thing that you need to do before massaging your baby is to find the best place for the massage. The area should be comfortable for both you and your baby. You may place your baby on the towel or blanket. Make sure the room is cosy and warm for the baby (neither too hot nor cold).
It is recommended to keep away any distractions such as pets or mobile phones. You may play some music or sing to your baby while massaging. You may take any good baby oil or lotion for the massage, as it helps your hands to glide smoothly on your baby’s skin. If your baby has some skin condition such as eczema, it is recommended to consult your doctor before starting any massage.
However, there are certain oils and lotions such as, mustard oil, aqueous cream, unrefined peanut oil and others, which should not be used for baby massages, as these oils may harm the soft and delicate skin of your baby.
Massaging Your Baby – Step By Step
After preparing your baby for the massage, you may use the following newborn baby massage techniques for the head, face, back, chest, tummy, legs and feet of your baby.
Baby Massage Moves to Get Started
You may take some oil and pat it on your baby’s head. You may apply gentle strokes for spreading the oil over your baby’s head. Take care of the fontanel (the soft spot on your baby’s head) and do not apply pressure to it.
Apply some oil on your baby’s face and tap with your fingers. Work your fingers from the forehead towards the chin. By putting gentle pressure on the eyebrows, stroke your fingers in an outward direction. Apply gentle strokes on the cheeks, chin and nose of your baby.
After doing the belly massage, fold your baby’s knees up to the tummy and apply gentle pressure. Hold this position for approximately 30 seconds, and repeat it a few times if needed. Massage your baby’s tummy, from below the naval area, in a downward motion. This helps in releasing gas.
Make your baby lie on the tummy. Massage with both your hands, from the base of your baby’s neck to the buttocks, by back and forth movements of your hand. Apply gentle pressure in a circular motion with your fingers, on your baby’s spine.
You may place both your hands on the centre of your baby’s chest and make outward strokes towards the shoulders. You may repeat this motion for a few times. You may place your hand horizontally and make downward movements too.
Starting at the base of your baby’s rib cage, use your fingers to massage your baby’s tummy in circular motions. Take your fingers around the naval area and massage in a clockwise direction. You may place your hand horizontally on your baby’s tummy and move your hands side to side. You should avoid infant abdominal massage if the cord has not completely dried and healed properly.
7. Legs and Feet
Take your baby’s legs and apply downward stroke from the thighs to the ankle. Hold your baby’s thigh and slide down both your hands by rotating in opposite directions but do it gently. (the way you wring the clothes after washing).
Take your baby’s foot and apply gentle pressure using your thumb in an upward motion, from the heel to toe. Make use of your hand to stroke the whole foot of your baby. You may gently pull each toe while massaging and by using small circular motions massage around the ankles of your baby.
You may follow the baby massage steps as mentioned above, however, make sure you do not apply more pressure on any of part of your baby’s body.
Here are some of the tips that you may follow for massaging your baby:
1. Apply Gentle Pressure
Your baby is very delicate and soft, therefore refrain from applying excessive pressure or stronger strokes during massages. It is also recommended to refrain from massaging the genitals and around the groin area of your baby.
2. Make Sure the Baby is in a Good Mood
Never massage a cranky or irritable baby. If you find that your baby is uncomfortable during massaging a particular body part, it is advised to skip that part and move to the other part. However, if the baby appears to be unhappy or uncomfortable, stop the massage session.
3. Talk to Your Baby
You may smile, giggle or talk to your baby during the massage sessions. You may even sing or hum to your baby. Engaging your baby in talks keeps your baby interested and happy.
4. Try to Make a Routine
It is advisable to adhere to the massage timings and not bring in many changes. Sticking to the schedules helps the baby to get into a routine and thus more comfortable and ready for the massage sessions.
5. Wipe Off Excess Oil
After you finish the massage, you should wipe off your baby’s palm and fingers nicely, as the babies usually put their fingers inside their mouths. It is also recommended to choose an oil that is safe for your baby.
Baby massage is one of the best ways to bond with your baby. You may continue massaging as long as you want. However, if you have concerns or queries regarding baby massage, it is advised to talk to your doctor.