Massage can be a great way to bond with your baby. In India, a baby is massaged as soon as she is 4-5 days old. Massage is usually done before bath.
Babies find a gentle laying on of hands very relaxing — and even therapeutic. That’s because of the five senses, touch is the one that’s most developed at birth, and there’s research to suggest that infant massage has enormous benefits for helping babies grow and thrive. Touch is a powerful way to communicate your love to your baby.
Although your newborn seems so delicate, don’t be afraid to start a massaging routine shortly after birth.
How can infant massage benefit your little one?
1. Sensory stimulation: Massage caters to baby’s need for sensory stimulation. By touching and massaging baby is able to connect with the touch of the primary caregiver – the mother.
2. Sleeps well: An oil massage and a warm bath will definitely help baby sleep better and longer.
3. Increase blood circulation: Massage goes a long way in soothing a cranky, fussy, irritated baby. It helps baby’s blood circulation and relaxes her.
4. Aids in digestion: Gentle long strokes along the body aids in relieving any digestion problems.
All that stroking and touching make it easier for you to bond with your new born.
Choosing the Oil:
If you’re using massage oil, choose one that’s edible, unscented, and either a cold-pressed fruit or vegetable oil .Sure, you don’t need oil to rub your little one the right way, but it’ll be more pleasant for both of you if your hands glide more easily over your baby’s body. Good options include coconut, canola, corn, olive, grape seed, apricot, avocado, or safflower oils. These oils are easily absorbed into a baby’s skin — and easily digested when your little one sucks on his hands or fingers.
Pick an area that’s comfortable for both of you, and warm so your nearly naked new born doesn’t catch a chill while he’s chilling from your massage.
Be gentle — and don’t apply too much pressure or it will be overpowering.
Here are some infant massage moves to get you started:
Legs and feet.
Hold your baby’s heel in one hand; with your other hand, start at the top of the thigh and slowly stroke all the way down to the ankle, gently squeezing the leg as you go, as if you were milking a cow. Reverse the motion and go from ankle to thigh. Then rub the feet with your thumbs, gently uncurling and stroking the toes. Switch legs. You can do these same strokes on the arms and hands.
Start with your hands on both sides of your baby’s head, then run your hands down both sides of his body, from his head to his toes. Next, draw tiny circles on your baby’s head with your fingertips.
Fold your hands (as if you were praying) on your baby’s forehead, then gently push outward from the centre. Next, use your thumb to draw a smile on your baby’s face by stroking from one cheek, across the upper lip to the other cheek. Repeat on the lower lip.
Fold your hands on your baby’s chest, then push out to the sides, as if you were smoothing the pages of an open book.
With your fingertips, draw an oval below your baby’s belly button. (Move clockwise, to follow the natural path of digestion.) Next, “walk” your fingertips from one side of your baby’s belly to the other, on the diagonal, as if you were making an “X.”
Stroke his back side to side and then up and down.
Should I do baby’s massage myself or get a traditional masseuse or ‘maalishwali’?
In India it is very common hire help to do the maalish or massage. These are women who are well known for their massage services through word of mouth. Hiring one depends on how confident you are and how much help you have around. Most new moms grapple with the question of how to do massage? How much pressure to apply? Or even how much a baby’s limbs can and should be stretched? Like motherhood, follow your instinct when it comes to massage too.
Here are a few things to remember
If hiring a maalishwali:
• Ensure the person you hire keeps a burping cloth or a clean cloth between her clothes and the baby. More often than not baby’s mouth will come in close contact with their clothes and you don’t want germs or bacteria from their clothes to come into contact with your baby.
• Most maalishwalis in India keep the baby on their shins. Do ensure that she washes her hands and legs with an anti bacterial soap before touching the baby. Also do not keep the baby in direct contact with her skin. Do keep a massage cloth on her legs so the baby is not in direct contact with her skin.
• Always be present when the baby is getting a massage done. This will not only make sure you enjoy all the giggles and squeals of your baby but you can also ensure no mishaps happen while she massages.
• Make sure the maalishwali coughs or sneezes away from the baby.
• Ensure the massage oil and bath water is not too hot. Make sure you check this one and never leave it to the maalishwali to check.
If you do the massage yourself:
• Do what feels comfortable for baby.
• Always make sure your baby is fed, but let there be a gap between meal time and massage time. Remember a baby that is hungry will be cranky and enjoy the massage a lot less than if he was satisfied with a full stomach.
• Start with the legs and work your way up the body. Use upward strokes and take your cues from your baby as you go forward.
• For baby’s chest and back use circular motions to massage.
• Do not use oil close to baby’s eyes, ears, nose and mouth.
• It is a myth that you can reshape the nose and head if you massage it out. Please do not try it.
Things to keep in mind while giving massage to baby:
• Use edible oils like coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil or mustard oil for massaging.
• If using mineral oil, use especially made for baby oils from reputed brands.
• Do not put oil in baby’s ears or nose. This can lead to infections.
• Massage baby in warm, comfortable place where there is no draught.
• Be gentle while massaging. Do not use rough strokes or stretch your baby’s limbs or nose.
• Keep your nails trimmed, as long nails can hurt baby.
• Remove any rings, bangles etc before starting massage as they can injure baby.
• Keep bath ready for baby before you start massaging. Wash off oil well during bath using a gentle baby soap or cleanser.
When your baby is born, you’ll begin an entirely new phase of your life. Take the time during your baby’s first days to enjoy this new beginning…