Most families in India subscribe heavily to the idea of massaging a baby. Many of us hire specially trained Aayaa who’d come twice a day to massage the baby as well as the new mother. Gradually, the mother takes over the massaging. Massaging a baby is associated with quite a few scientific benefits, and also becomes a great playing and bonding time for the mother and the baby. But it also comes with a lot of questions. What oil should I chose? How do I massage my baby? Am I doing it right? Is it too much for the baby? And what not.
So lets address these common questions on baby massaging and also discuss the various benefits of baby massage.
Which Oil Is Best For Baby Massage?
The market is flooded with various oils for massaging a baby, each one marketed with some benefits for the baby. Whether you go for mineral oils or vegetable oils, the choice should be made on the basis of your baby’s skin condition, weather and your own comfort.
Among the categories of natural oils, coconut oil has been the preferred choice of many given its high vitamin E content. But then during winters coconut oil gets solid, so many mother prefer the good old mustard oil that also has the properties of keeping a baby warm.
Some mothers swear by the benefits of olive oil for massaging a baby, while some others love almond oil for their babies. Some others even use ‘jaitun ka tel’ and our very own ghee for massaging a baby.
Basically, you can use heavier oils if you bathe your baby after the massage, which is a common practice in most homes. However, if you massage your baby after bathing her, then you can use mineral oils that leave just a thin layer on the baby’s skin to retain moisture.
What is the best way to massage a baby?
Once you have zeroed in on an oil, a good time and the room where you intend to massage the baby, it is now time to get started. Place your baby on a mat that would stay put when the massage is being done, and it should be something that doesn’t get all slippery with the oil. Make sure your hands are clean, and the room where you are massaging is at a comfortable temperature. Warm the oil, and place it aside, away from the baby’s reach. Undress the baby playfully, sing to him and make faces.
Take just a few drops of oil in your hand, massage your hands a little bit. Start with the baby’s feet – hold one at a time from the heel, on one of your palms, and use the other hand to massage the sole and the fingers in gentle circular motions. Keep the pressure low, yet firm. Repeat with the second foot.
After the feet, massage the baby’s legs from the ankles to the thighs. Firm and gentle strokes from the ankle to the thighs should be done. Gradually, move to the upper body, the chest, massaging the baby from the chest to the shoulders in an upward motion. Firmly press the shoulders. On the stomach, use gentle anti-clockwise circular motions with a little oil.
If you do give your baby tummy time, then place her tummy down and massage her back. Start from the center, going upwards to both the shoulders. On the waist, the strokes should start from the sides and end at the center. This helps the baby have broader back and slender waist.
The little one’s scalp can be massaged in gentle, small circular motions with some oil. Do this only if your baby enjoys it.
At any point if the baby seems to resist the massage, let it go. Try again another day with lighter pressure and gentler motions.
What Is The Best Time To Massage A Baby?
Many people prefer massaging a baby before the bath and before bedtime, as the massage relaxes a baby and she sleeps better. Some mothers prefer massaging the baby after a bath so as to retain the moisture in the skin. If you are using a light oil, you may opt for massaging your baby after the bath and retain the goodness. However, for heavier oils like mustard and coconut, it is best to run the baby a bath so the excess oil can be washed away. You can up the benefits by doing the massage in an area where there is ample early sunlight – this will provide Vitamin D to the baby.
When Should We Start Massaging The Baby?
It is common to start baby massaging soon after the baby comes home. But some mother prefer to wait till the time the umbilical stump falls off, since one has to be very careful if massaging before that. Some mothers wait for 2 weeks before they start to massage the baby, since they are still getting the hold of holding their babies, playing with them and being comfortable with them. Babies are delicate beings, so unless you do not feel comfortable in moving the baby around, it is best to wait.
For premature babies, depending on the time they are premature, massage can be started once they reach their due date. It is best to consul a doctor on when to start massage if your baby has had jaundice, was prematurely born or has had any other birthing complication.
Let’s now come to the benefits.
7 Benefits Of Massaging Your Baby
- Soothes and relaxes: A baby has hundreds of new experiences daily, and that may make her anxious too. The best way to calm a distressed baby is to give him/her a soothing massage. Massage helps the calm down a baby, promotes better sleep and decreases stress. As you will see yourself, your newborn is quite active while lying on her back – the arms and legs are in a constant cycling motion. This eventually tires the baby out and the result is that the baby sleeps sound and easy
- Fosters a bond: When you massage your baby, you are forging a great bond through touch as well as sound – it’s natural to use soft, soothing, loving words along with the massage and this works like magic to make your baby feel loved and secure
- Cuts out colic and constipation: When you massage your baby’s back you are giving her ‘tummy time’. Tummy time, as your doctor must have told you, is important for the baby’s digestive system – it helps in relieving gas and also easing out constipation
- Promotes healthy weight gain: It is believed that oil massage is an ideal way to ensure a healthy weight gain in babies. When you are massaging your baby, you are ensuring that all her body parts are being stimulated. This stimulation aids in better digestion and better digestion translates into healthy growth and weight gain
- Boosts the mind: Experts believe that when you are giving an oil massage to your baby, there is a natural release of serotonin – a natural chemical in the brain which regulates moods. An increased serotonin production results in a happy baby – and need we say, a happy baby means happy mommy!
- Get the glow: Children have soft and supple skin. Why is that so? Well! you guessed it right – it is the result of an oil massage. Any oil containing vitamin E is beneficial to the skin. Most baby oils contain vitamin E which is very beneficial for the skin
- Strengthens bones and muscles: Last but the most beneficial – an oil massage is the best thing that can happen for a growing baby’s bones and muscles. It increases the blood supply to the bones and muscles and also to all the vital organs; the result – the baby becomes stronger day by day
What Precautions Should I Take During Massaging My Baby
While massaging a baby, it is important that she is in a playful and cheerful mood. Refrain from massaging a baby if she is hungry, needs to be changed, is bored or sleepy. Most happy massages happen when the baby has all his needs met and is in a happy mood. Some prerequisites before you massage a baby include-
- A room that has a comfortable temperature, and ample light. The windows should preferably be closed, and if it is hot, the fan should be at a minimum speed
- The baby should not be hungry, tired, sleepy, or cranky. Happy babies enjoy their massages better
- Whatever oil/lotion you are using for massaging the baby, make sure that it is at a comfortable temperature
- Sometimes, one tends to exert too much of pressure or carry the massage for a longer time. Your baby’s temperament is the key here. Any time the baby seems uncomfortable for fusses about a motion, let it go
- Take care of not letting the oil go into the mouth, ears and nose