Some years ago, new mothers were unsure whether or not their newborns would benefit from a baby massage. But a
Questions as to when to start the baby massage, the ideal time to give the
When should I give my baby its first massage?
The sensitive skin of newborn babies does not have a barrier at birth, so it is advisable to wait at least two weeks or one month till the skin is airtight enough to receive a massage. Also, a massage should be given only after the umbilical cord stub is shed lest the massage oil gets trapped in the cord leading to an infection.
What are the things to avoid before the massage?
Remove all your bangles and rings as it might hurt the baby during the massage.
Ensure that the baby is not immediately fed before a massage. Leave an appropriate gap between the feeding session and the baby’s massage.
Avoid using artificially scented baby massage oils as they can do more harm than good.
What is the right time to give a baby massage?
Once you have started with daily baby massages, stick to a fixed time so that your little one can settle into the routine. Massaging your baby at night before or after a bath can help with the release of melatonin for a good night’s sleep. It is crucial to ascertain that your young one is in the right frame of mind for a massage. The baby should be well-rested, responsive and interested in the surroundings to feel the positive effects of the massage. Generally, the baby should be massaged between two feeding sessions so keep a gap of 45 minutes after feeding the baby. Also, ensure that you feed the baby again after waiting for at least 15 minutes post massage.
A step-by-step guide on how to massage the baby
Choose an even surface and place a soft towel where you want to massage your baby. Choose a baby massage oil that is naturally scented like, sesame oil, castor oil, etc. Seasonal changes should dictate your choice of baby oil. E.g., coconut oil is used best during summers, while in winters, olive oil, mustard oil, and almond oil provide the needed nourishment. Keep the baby massage oil at arm’s reach, and you can start by placing the baby on the towel.
Take off all the clothing of your infant and ensure that their bladder is empty before starting the massage. You can start testing if the baby is up for massage by taking some oil in your palms and massaging his tummy and behind the ears. Keep an eye out for his body language, signs like crankiness, crying, or irritability means that it is best not to proceed. If the baby seems calm and responsive, then it is a green signal.
Legs - The legs are the best place to start because they are less sensitive than other body parts. Pour some baby massage oil in your palms and gently stroke the length of the legs with both the hands as if in a ‘milking’ gesture.
Feet - Start by stroking the soles of the feet with your palms and use your thumb to make circles from the heel to the toes. Place each toe between your index and middle finger and gently pull each one till your oily fingers slip out of it. Do not pull fiercely on the toes replicating adult massage. Take a foot in your hands and rotate it both clockwise and counterclockwise a couple of times. Repeat on the other foot.
Arms - Similarly, do the ‘wringing the towel’ movement on the arms while applying gentle pressure with both the hands. Trace circles with your thumb on the palms and little fingers. Gently pull on all ten fingers as with the toes. Again, rotate the arms at the wrist going in one direction for a few times and then the other.
Chest and shoulders - Stroke the right and left shoulder one after the other with your palms and meet at the chest of the baby. Place both your hands on the baby’s chest and make strokes outwards as if tracing a heart shape.
Tummy - It is important to only apply the faintest pressure on the tummy as it is a sensitive area for babies. Begin at the chest bone and make clockwise circular strokes around the belly button. Spread all across the belly with the same kind of circular strokes. Take care to avoid the navel in very young infants as they must have recently shed their umbilical cord stub.
Head and Face - Starting from the chin, massage the baby’s cheeks in a circular motion with the tip of your thumb. Then, stroke the outline of the baby’s face from the centre of the forehead in both the directions and meeting at the chin. Also, massage the head using mild pressure as if you were shampooing the scalp.
Back - Lay your baby on his tummy with his arms ahead of him instead of his sides so that his head rests afloat. Begin at the upper back and start stroking in clockwise movements with the tip of your fingers and ending at the buttocks. Place both your index fingers on either side of the spinal groove (and not directly on the spine) and trace along the spine gently.
Daily massage is an excellent time to check for the baby’s growing nails, in which case, you can use nail cutters to clip those growing fingernails. Babies also need cotton swabs or ear cleaner and nose buds to clean off any dirt in the ears and clear off blocked pathways in the nose. And lots and lots of diapers.
How is massaging beneficial to my baby?
Parent-child bonding - Massage is the best way to stimulate an infant’s sense of touch as it is comfortable and soothing to the child. A newborn baby’s skin is highly sensitive that responds to touch with the grasp reflex. It is beneficial to both the parent and the child during the early days as it helps in forming strong bonds through the sense of touch.
Regulates hormones - Massage has been proven to help with the release of the feel-good hormone – oxytocin and at the same time decrease the levels of the stress hormone called cortisol. Additionally, it relaxes the muscles and stimulates its growth and has proven effective with colicky babies.
Overall development - Babies who are massaged regularly show a better scope of social and psychological development as per a report by the 2012 Asian Nursing Research Journal. It dramatically improves the child’s motor learning skills and is beneficial to the nervous system as well.
Sound sleep - While giving a baby massage for sleep purposes, it helps to understand the importance of melatonin. The sleep-regulating hormone melatonin is secreted through massage in infants. Therefore, babies tend to sleep better when they are massaged right before bedtime. It also serves the purpose of faster muscle gain and improved immune system.
Meets different requirements of babies - Children born with cerebral palsy or Down’s syndrome have shown significant improvement when they are often massaged. It has a soothing effect on them and can successfully calm them down. Even premature babies can gain weight and have limited hospital term through the positive impact of massages.
Relieves digestive ailments - The circular movements used during massage improves the blood circulation and relieves babies of digestive issues like acidity, gas, etc. It stimulates the nerves in the digestive tract thus ensuring smooth functioning of the digestive system.
Helps depressive mothers - Mothers suffering from post-natal depression have witnessed significant improvement in their mood and behaviour when they massage their babies. The bonding and touching sensations help both the mother and child as such infants too showed signs of less crying and improved social and emotional development with the help of baby massages.
New mothers are always looking for proper guidance on how to give their newborn babies the best care in the world. We hope we have answered most of your questions and would love to hear back from you in the comments section. Do share your experiences of how giving your baby massage has helped in their development and how the sense of touch has enabled