Massage is a marvelous way to strengthen your bond with your baby. This type of natural therapy, when done properly and given regularly, offers numerous benefits for infants which include:
● Improves quality and quantity of sleep
● Provides relief for nasal congestion and teething irritation
● Helps with digestion and reduces colic, gas and constipation
● Enhances the body’s immune system
● Facilitates good muscle tone, coordination and flexibility
● Helps calm, relax and soothe the baby
Massaging babies, however, is quite different from massaging adult and older kids. Babies are more delicate and, as such, giving them some touch therapy requires more thought, planning and care.
Here are some important dos and don’ts you have to remember when giving your baby a massage:
Dos of baby massage
1. Know some basic massaging strokes
Learning a few basic massaging techniques will help you give your baby a good massage. For instance, if you’re massaging the baby in the morning and want him awake and active, make gentle strokes towards the heart from the wrist to the shoulder. I
f you want your baby to have a good night’s sleep, make gentle strokes away from the heart from the shoulder to the wrist.
2. Choose a comfortable massage area
You need to massage the baby in a room that isn’t too warm or too cold. It can be the bedroom or living room, as long as it is a comfortable place so that your baby will be comfy, too. Make sure the room is well-lit (but not too bright) as well.
Prepare the room beforehand to make sure you have everything you need including a clean towel, extra diapers, clothes, and oil.
3. Massage the baby on the floor or ground
Place your baby on a mat and comforter on the ground when giving him touch therapy. You can also use a massage table or bed, but you may not be able to predict how your baby will move. As such, for safety reasons, it is best to do the massage on the ground.
4. Use the right kind of oil
Although using oil isn’t mandatory for massage therapy, using it will make it easier for you to glide your hands over your baby’s body. It will also help make your baby’s skin supple.
However, you have to make sure you choose the right oil to use. It is best to pick one that is organic and unscented such as coconut, avocado, canola or olive since they are edible and won’t harm your baby if he ingests it while sucking his fingers.
To make sure the oil is safe for your baby, check for any allergic reactions the night before the next massage. Do a patch test on his skin by rubbing a few drops of oil on his wrist. If the area turns red, your baby has an allergic reaction to it. Do not use this oil and choose another one to use.
5. Relax before the session
Before starting the therapy, de-stress and get into a relaxed mood. Giving your baby a massage while you’re tense won’t do anything good for your baby. Take a few deep breaths before you begin to release the tension from your body.
6. Bond with your baby during the session
Play some soothing music during the massage to stimulate your baby’s auditory sense. During the session, maintain eye contact with your baby. Sing and talk to him as well. By doing so, you get to bond with your baby and you help keep him calm and relaxed, too.
Don’ts of baby massage
1. Give your baby a massage anytime
Massage your baby when he is already awake and alert, not while he is still asleep. Don’t proceed with the session immediately after feeding your baby since this can cause nausea and indigestion. Wait at least 30 minutes after feeding your baby before giving him some touch therapy.
2. Massage your baby if he is sick or has just been immunized
Massaging your baby means exposing his body in the open for several minutes. If your baby has a fever or cold, exposure to air can further aggravate the illness and end up doing more harm than good to your child.
If you had your baby vaccinated, the area of the injection will often be sore for a few days. As such, do not give your child a massage to avoid hurting the area. Avoid massaging your baby if you see rashes on his body since the oil you will use may just aggravate the inflammation.
3. Apply too much pressure
When massaging your baby, be gentle yet firm. If you apply too much pressure, you may hurt your baby. The pain and discomfort he will feel may also cause him to dislike getting massages in the future.
4. Continue if your baby doesn’t like being massaged
If your baby is crying or yelling during the massage, you may be doing something wrong. In such instances, it is best to stop and continue when the baby is in the mood for it.
Also, keep in mind that you don’t always have to massage the whole body. Sometimes, a gentle back rub or leg massage is enough. Pay attention to your baby’s reactions and continue massaging him as long as he is enjoying it.
5. Leave oil on your baby’s body
Give your baby a bath at least 30 minutes after the massage. Make sure you wash off all the oil entirely since the residual oil can clog your baby’s pores, cause allergies, and allow dust and grime to stick your baby’s skin.
6. Be embarrassed to get help from experts if you’re not confident about your massaging skills
Lastly, if you’re afraid you will hurt your baby when you give him a massage, bring your child to a therapist who specializes in infant massage. You can also consider getting a short course on massage therapy to be sure you will be applying the right practices and techniques that will allow your child to experience all the health and developmental benefits.
A good massage will calm your baby. It will also be a great bonding experience for you and your child. To make every touch therapy session a wonderful experience for your baby, follow the right tips and find ways to improve your techniques.
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.