Knowing how to massage a baby is a simple but effective way to express your love and care. It also offers several benefits not just for your child but for you, the parent, as well.
What is Baby Massage?
A baby massage is the gentle and rhythmic stroking of a baby’s body using hands. With infant natural massage therapy, you also have to use child-safe oil or moisturizer so that your hands will slide smoothly over a baby’s skin. As part of the therapy, parents, caregivers, and therapists also usually manipulate the infant’s wrists, ankles, and fingers.
Massage can also be useful for premature babies who are in special care because:
- It can improve weight gain particularly with the use of special oils
Massage stimulates the vagus nerve which links the brain to the different parts of the body as well as the stomach. By stimulating this nerve, you can improve the digestion, bowel movement, and weight gain of your baby.
- It can help an infant have a more stable heart rate
Massage can improve the different parts of the nervous system which regulates the organs. It can keep steady the heart rate of a premature baby.
- It can stabilize brain activity
Premature babies who undergo frequent appropriate body manipulation tend to develop healthy levels of brain activity.
When giving your child a massage, you’ll discover that your mood will be improved and you will feel more empowered as a parent. You will develop a stronger emotional bond with your baby as well.
What are some proven benefits?
There are many ways that massage can benefit your baby. These include:
- Promotes better sleep
- Improves the immune system
- Supports your baby’s intellectual development
- Encourages metal, social, and physical development
- Helps make your baby feel more relaxed thereby reducing their crying tendencies
When is the Best Time to Give Your Baby a Massage?
It’s best to pick a time wherein your baby isn’t too full or too hungry. A good time for a therapeutic massage would be when your baby is awake and calm. If your baby is interested in her environment and is quietly alert, this means she’s ready to handle some touch therapy.
You can make massage a part of your baby’s bedtime routine or possible after a bath. A massage before bedtime can help wind down your baby after a long day, enabling her to feel calmer, more relaxed, and ready to sleep.
How To Give Your Baby a Massage
Before massaging your infant, take note of the following tips:
- Make sure that the room is warm enough at around 24 °C with no flow of air
- Place your baby down on a towel or changing math underneath
- If it’s a little cold, you may keep your baby’s vest on
- If you have pets, place them in another room so that there aren’t any distractions
- You can play also relaxing music with a volume low enough that your baby can still hear you
If it’s your baby’s first time to undergo touch therapy, massage your baby’s legs first until she gets familiar with the sensation. Then, try to follow a routine pattern to make it comforting for your baby.
Things you’ll need:
It’s essential that you have a room where your baby can enjoy a good massage without any disturbance. Make sure that you have everything you’ll need, including:
- Massage oil or cream
- Towels or muslin squares
- Nappy-changing kit
Whichever cream or oil you use, dab a little on your baby’s skin first to test it. Look out for any signs of an allergic reaction. You should do this patch test a day before you intend to give your infant some touch therapy.
To give your baby a safe and proper massage, follow these steps:
- Warm a tiny amount of cream or oil in both your palms
- Gently rub the cream or oil onto your baby’s legs
- Work your way slowly by going up her legs, lightly pressing her thighs and calves
- For the tummy and chest, gently place your both hands at the center of your baby’s body. Spread your hands slowly to the sides as if softly evening out a page of a book
- Let your hands remain flat and use your fingertips to caress outward in tiny circles
- Continue the massage for as long as your baby is enjoying. A baby massage usually lasts up to 10-30 minutes, depending on her mood.
How Long Should You Massage Your Baby?
Knowing and understanding your baby’s signals is an essential aspect of a massage. You have to observe what strokes your baby likes and dislikes. If your baby starts crying, she is telling you that it’s time to end the massage.
Remember to make your strokes not ticklish and gentle but firm. Also, keep in mind that infant massage needs practice. If you want to give your baby the best quality of touch therapy, there are fast-track therapy courses you can take which can help you learn about and be competent in giving body manipulation therapy. To establish a proper routine, it is also important to integrate massage into your baby’s everyday schedule as well.
Marc Innes is the Owner and Principal of the School of Natural Therapies, a training school for Massage & Holistic Therapies located in London. Marc began his career in the NHS, working in a number of managerial and training roles within the Ambulance Service in London.
He spent much of that time educating and coaching medical staff. Over time, he developed an interest in all things complementary to Allopathic Medicine, in particular, Reiki Healing and EFT, which culminated in running a successful teaching and ‘energy healing’ practice. Marc is passionate about the massage and complementary therapy industry.