Baby massage is a long standing tradition in in many cultures especially India. The Indian Ayurvedic medicine tradition recommends massaging the baby everyday for at least his or her first 6 months of life–and even everyday until 18months. Here in the States baby massage has been growing in popularity. Ever wonder why?
Studies have shown that massage greatly helps soothe babies with colic, constipation and gas pain. It enhances baby and toddler brain development. It also supports immune function and improves muscle tone. Massage can be performed on a medically stable baby from the same day he or she is born.
There aren’t just benefits for baby. Infant massage has also been shown to help women suffering from post-partum depression get back to feeling like themselves and enjoying their babies. It encourages parent-child bonding and can help new parents learn more about how their baby communicates with them. Baby massage can be a special way for Dads to feel empowered and included in baby’s care. Sign up for a class as a family or learn together from a book.
Learning baby massage is simple and fun. Any massage is better then no massage so although there is a scientific method to the application of different strokes you can also simply set aside a special time and then follow your instincts. There are numerous books, websites and youtube videos devoted to the subject. However, the easiest way to learn is probably to have someone show you. Whichever way you choose to learn you just need to apply a few simple principles and then you are ready to give your child a gift that lasts a lifetime.
Some Baby Massage Basics:
- Wait until baby is in the “Quiet Alert State” to massage.
- Always wash your hands first.
- Do not massage on the spine.
- Do not massage when baby has a fever.
- Use a natural oil like apricot, grapeseed, sesame seed or olive oil. Mineral oil is not preferred since it can clog pores or get in baby’s mouth since babies suck on their hands.
- Use a gentle yet firm pressure…make sure to use enough pressure to avoid tickling. Be extra gentle on baby’s soft spots on head.
- Systematically massage each area of the body. Keep the baby warm throughout the massage by covering areas not being massaged with a warm blanket.
- Massage the abdomen in a clockwise circular motion to follow the body’s natural path of digestion.
Always follow baby’s cues. If baby starts fussing re-evaluate what you are doing. Try something different. See if baby settles down. If baby gets very worked up and starts crying loudly then stop the massage and meet baby’s other needs. You can always try the again massage later or a different day.
Massage can be given more then once a day. Some parents make massage a regular part of the bedtime routine. If you incorporate a regular massage into your daily routine baby will learn this is a special time between the two of you. Crawlers, waddlers and walkers may have trouble staying still for a full massage. During this phase shorten massage routines, tell stories or sing songs as you massage. Don’t give it up entirely. Your little one will be ready for longer massages again someday.