A soothing massage is the best way to care for your baby and express your love. Also, it helps a lot soothing your little one and helping it sleep through the night. Also, a massage helps babies to improve weight gain, improve circulation, digestion, and ease teething pain. There are a few baby massage techniques and you can easily learn how to do it.
You may also find this experience relaxing, so you need to know how to massage baby body parts properly to make the procedure pleasing for both of you. Touch is a lot of things for a baby and it is one of the most important communication tools for your little one. This is why they usually love cuddling, and why they certainly love receiving a massage!
Baby Massage – what is it?
It is an activity when a parent is gently stroking the baby’s body while using a lotion or massage oil specifically made for infants. It is proven that massage soothes babies and helps them in different areas. Also, it provides the social-bonding moment for a parent and a baby – which is probably the most important in the whole process.
When it is Safe to Start with Massages?
Usually, pediatricians recommend that you can start massaging your baby once it is about one month old. This is mainly because a baby’s skin barrier is still not developed right after birth. It takes about 15 days for the skin to be water-resistant and you should generally wait about two more weeks before starting with a massage.
Your baby should also get rid of the umbilical cord stump after 15 days. This is another reason why you should wait for at least about a month before starting with baby massage techniques. You will be risking infection of the stump if massage oil gets trapped in it. There’s also a rule of thumb about group massage sessions. You shouldn’t be taking your baby to one until your child is at least 6 weeks old. The reason for this is obvious – infants sometimes find crowded environments very stressful. The baby’s body is also much more responsive to touch after the first month, so make sure you start with baby massage techniques after that period.
Baby Massage Benefits
Social and psychological development boost. According to Asian Nursing Research Journal’s report from 2012, there are positive effects on the baby’s social and psychological development achieved by stimulating the baby’s sense of touch. Also, it plays a crucial part in the bonding experience with a parent.
Relaxes muscles and relieves stress. A baby massage is lowering the cortisol levels and stimulating the release of oxytocin. Cortisol is also known as stress hormone while oxytocin is a “feel-good” neurohormone. A massage is particularly great with colicky babies since it relaxes muscles and stimulates their growth.
Nervous system stimuli. A baby massage is extremely beneficial to the nervous system of your baby. The massage can improve the motor skills development of your child.
Helps with sleeping. It is proven that a baby can sleep better after a massage. This will later result in improved immune response and faster muscle gain. Also, an infant that’s massaged before bed can produce more melatonin, which is a sleep hormone.
Improving the quality of life of disabled babies. It is proven that a massage is the best way to calm babies with cerebral palsy or Down’s syndrome. There are also proofs showing that premature babies can develop better motor skills if they are massaged regularly and correctly. Also, preterm babies can gain weight faster if they are massaged. The doctors report that premature babies have a lot of shorter hospital stays if they are massaged regularly. Some pediatricians suggest that babies born to depressed mothers tend to show greater social and emotional development if they are massaged correctly and regularly.
Circulatory system benefits. A baby massage decreases the discomfort level caused by teething, congestion, acidity, or gas. But also, it improves the blood circulation a lot. A simple massage will stimulate the nerves that are in your baby’s belly which will result in a better digestive system.
Dealing with depression. Some mothers experience postnatal depression. A massage is a very effective way of fighting this condition. Moms who suffer from the condition show improved behavior and mood when they massage their babies regularly. On the other hand, fathers who massage their babies regularly may improve their self-esteem, according to experts. It is also proven that these fathers interact with their kids more frequently and are more involved in the baby’s care.
When is the Right Time for a Massage?
If you don’t know how to massage baby body parts yet, you probably don’t know when is a good time for a massage either. It is always good to massage your baby when it is well-rested, alert, and interested in the environment. You need to figure out when your child is not either hungry or full between to feedings. Keep in mind to start with the massage at least 45 minutes after your baby’s last feeding. Also, make sure that at least 15 minutes pass after the massage and before another feeding session. You need to let your baby’s body relax properly.
The best time for a massage is probably after bath and before sleeping or napping. You can repeat the massage every day, or every other day at the same time to get the best results. Another good time for a massage is before bathing your baby. This time is especially good if you use lotion or residual oil because you will be able to wash it away during the bath. However, you can also massage your baby after the wash if your child has dry skin and if your baby’s pediatrician told you it is safe.
Before massaging your baby you need to do the following setup:
- Sit on a soft carpeted floor or a bed and put a baby towel in front of you. Also, you can put a towel on a table if you think it is easier for you to massage your baby while standing. The towel will absorb any excess oil.
- You always need a comfortable room temperature. Make sure that enough air is circulation through the room during summer, but also make sure that the room is warm enough during winter. Keep in mind that babies start feeling warm very quickly which makes them cranky.
- Use as much natural light as possible, but also don’t forget about the lighting in the room.
- Make sure you are using proper baby oil when massaging. You want to use an unscented oil with no added perfumes and with natural fragrances.
- It is up to you if you are going to use a nappy while massaging your baby. However, you can loosen it when you start massaging the tummy. A massage without a nappy will potentially increase the risk of accidental soiling. You will be massaging every part of the body if you don’t use it, which is a good thing.
The next section will help you if you are wondering how to massage baby properly. There are 10 simple baby massage techniques you should follow to get the best results.
The first you want to do is to have your child’s permission. You don’t want to massage your baby if it is not interested in it at the moment. Take some oil in your hands and rub it gently behind your baby’s ears and on its tummy. You should observe your baby’s body while doing this to see how it reacts. If your child is cries or resists when you touch it, then it is probably not the best time for a massage. Positive signs are a green light to continue with the massage.
The first thing you want to learn is how to massage baby legs. You want to start with the feet and massage the heels up to the toes using your thumbs. Use your palm and stroke the top and bottom of your baby’s foot. Keep in mind not to pull your baby’s toes like it is usually done in adult foot massages. Lightly massage each toe to the tip.
The arms are the next part of your baby’s body after you are done with legs. The pattern is similar to the previous massage technique. Just hold the hands of your baby and make circular strokes on the palms, then proceed to fingers. Don’t forget to massage the back of your baby’s hand and wrists.
Gently stroke in tandem from the right and left shoulder towards your baby’s chest. Go back to the shoulder afterward. Keep repeating the same motion gently for some time.
Your baby’s stomach is the next part of the body you need to massage after chest. Keep in mind that this is a very delicate area and you need to avoid any pressure. You should start massaging right below the chest bone. Make clockwise circular strokes all around your baby’s belly button.
Babies tend to move a lot and this could make massaging head and face a bit challenging, so you may be asking yourself “How to massage baby head?” Keep in mind that the head is not any less important to massage than any other part of the body. Place the tip of your index finger at your child’s forehead and stroke along the outline of your baby’s face. Do this towards your baby’s chin. Massage your baby’s cheeks too.
Turn your baby around and massage its back once you are done with all other baby massage techniques. Your baby should be laid on its tummy. Keep in mind that your child’s hands should be at the front and not no sides. Your fingertips should be on your baby’s upper back when you are starting. Make clockwise circles and slowly move down to your baby’s buttocks.
There are a few general rules you should follow when you are massaging your baby. For example, you should skip the massage of a particular part of the body if your baby becomes cranky while you are doing it. Rather move to the next technique. If your baby is still irritable stop the massage. You can try with the massage again when you notice your baby is more receptive to touch.
Make sure you are always gentle when massaging your infant. Baby’s tissues and bones are very delicate and you can cause damage even with the slightest pressure. Also, never massage the pubic area of your child for the same reasons.
Remember to smile, laugh, and speak to your baby while you are giving it a massage. Initiate an eye contact when your baby looks at you and answer with a smile and baby talk. This will keep your baby interested in the massage and will possibly make your baby even more cooperative.
Use a tissue to wipe any excess oil from your baby’s palms. Doing this will prevent accident ingestion since babies tend to put their hands in their mouths frequently. Choose baby oils that are 100% safe for infants to avoid any potential health risks even if your baby accidentally ingests some of it.
Baby Planet Overview
Massaging your baby is not necessary, but it is recommended by almost all pediatricians and experts. There are a few baby massage techniques you are supposed to obtain in order to provide your baby with comfort. These techniques are very simple and straightforward and you shouldn’t have any troubles learning them.
Don’t forget to use the proper oils for the massage since you don’t want your baby to ingest any unwanted chemicals. Also, find a good time of the day for a massage and stick to it. Be gentle and both you and your baby are going to enjoy!
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- Infant Massage and Quality of Early Mother-Infant Interactions, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov