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Infant Massage

Infant Massage

infant-massage.jpg

Don't we all love a relaxing massage to relieve the stress and tension after a hard day's work? Babies
enjoy massages too!

But for babies, massages are not only a form of relaxation; they also help in the physical
development of the baby, and promote his/her overall health and well-being.

In traditional Indian and Chinese homes, infant massage is an essential part of the routine, much like
bathing the child.

When to massage?

A baby is usually massaged before bath time and placed in the sun to allow for oil absorption while
making sure he/she gets some vitamin D, essential for building healthy bones.

Other caregivers may prefer massaging the baby at night before putting him to bed to promote a
restful sleep.

Ingredients for a perfect massage

Some parents use light baby oil to lubricate the baby's hands and skin while others prefer an oil-free
massage.

Vegetable or plant oils (e.g. coconut oil, sesame oil), and olive oils are commonly used for infant
massage in various cultures. However, do consult a paediatrician before using any oil on your baby
as it may cause rashes or other skin problems.

Benefits of an infant massage

Massaging your little one every day is beneficial to both you and your baby, physically and mentally.

Physical well-being

Find out what benefits massaging brings and how you should massage your baby.

  • Relieves wind and colic, and aids in digestion
    • Massaging under the belly button of the baby in circular motion with a gentle
      pressure helps eliminate waste and gas from the body
  • Builds and tones muscles, and ultimately promotes growth
    • Massaging the thigh and leg muscles regularly strengthens the baby's legs and aids
      in skills like crawling, standing and walking
  • Relaxes the baby, relieves stress and induces sleep
  • Stimulates the nervous system and sensory organs
  • Improves the baby's sensory awareness, and helps him/her discover the power of touch
  • Improves blood circulation and promotes the flow of oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the
    body
  • Improves the baby's overall skin condition and prevents dry skin
  • Balances the endocrine system and boosts the immune system
  • Helps premature babies gain weight and grow

Mental well-being

Both the caregiver and the baby can reap the mental benefits of an infant massage.

  • Bonding
    • The physical contact helps the baby feel loved and secure, while the mother feels
      more emotionally attached to her little one
  • Feeling good
    • Massaging releases the 'feel good' hormones (i.e. oxytocin, endorphin) in the body.
      These hormones act as a pain reliever and mood enhancer.

Do's & don'ts of infant massage

New parents are often confused about how, when and how much to massage their baby. Here are
some tips that can guide you.

Do's

  • Before massaging the baby wash your hands thoroughly and take off jewellery such as rings
    and bangles that may hurt the baby
  • Make sure your hands are neither very hot nor cold
  • Make sure the room where you oil the baby is well-ventilated and not too hot or cold
  • Massaging the baby where he/she can get the morning sun is most beneficial
  • For younger babies, you can massage on the changing mat, and for older babies who can
    turn and roll, massage them on a mat spread on the floor
  • Massage the baby at a time when he/she is responsive and attentive but not extremely
    playful
  • Massage gently using firm but light pressure
    • For very young babies, one hand can be used to support their body and the other for massage
    • For older babies, both hands can be used
  • The kneading technique can be used on the back, shoulders and hips
    • Gentle, circular strokes can be used on the chest and stomach, and firm thumb
      pressure can be applied on the soles of the feet and the palms of the hand
  • If planning to use a vegetable/plant-based oil, it is best to consult a paediatrician and follow
    up with a patch test
    • To conduct a patch test, use the oil on a small, non-sensitive part of the skin and
      observe for 24 hours for any possible reaction before using the oil again
  • Talk to the baby, sing to the baby and make eye contact. Babies, especially older ones, enjoy
    the interaction during a massage session and will soon respond to you and look forward to
    the next massage session

Don'ts

  • Do not massage the baby on a full stomach or when he/she is extremely hungry
  • Do not massage the baby when he/she is too sleepy or crying
  • If using oil, do not use on face or any opening of the body
  • Do not direct pressure on the soft spots of the head and the spine
  • Do not rub the 'still-soft' joints of the baby (e.g. elbows and knees)
  • Do not extend a massage session beyond the baby's capacity. A 10-minute massage is
    enough for young infants, and a 20-minute massage is ideal for older babies.

You can set a daily massage routine for the baby from when he/she is a month old after consulting a
paediatrician, and for as long as possible. But it is advisable to at least massage the baby till he/she is
2 years old.

Remember that massaging the baby is less about technique and more about love and nurturing. A
massage session should leave both the caregiver and the baby happy and not merely exhausted.

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