Imagine if just one touch can soothe your baby right away. What else can a loving, intentional touch do? It’s been validated repeatedly in many clinical studies that massaging your baby, or in other words, providing a loving touch is beneficial for both you and your child.
Experts believe that a baby, warm and cosy in a mother’s womb, receives constant massage with every movement. Therefore, out of the womb, a child responds beautifully to the loving, therapeutic and rhythmic touch of a soothing and comforting baby massage.
You can experience much joy and fulfilment during baby massage while your infant feels nurtured, secured, and cared for. A regular massage regimen promotes and strengthens a secure attachment between mother and child.
Image source: Stock
When to Do Baby Massage
Baby massage can help with various issues, from digestive problems to colic. But how do you know when it’s time to give your baby a massage? Here are a few signs that your baby may benefit from a massage:
The baby is colicky or gassy. The colic is characterised by inconsolable crying, frequent bowel movements and/or diarrhoea, and difficulty sleeping. In some cases, colic can be relieved with a massage.
Babies have trouble sleeping at night. If your baby has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night, you might consider giving him or her a massage before bedtime.
The baby has been diagnosed with acid reflux disease (GERD). GERD causes heartburn-like symptoms in babies and can lead to frequent vomiting or spitting up green mucus after feeding. Babies who suffer from GERD often respond well to regular massages.
Baby Massage Benefits for Baby
According to research, if done right, baby massage has various health benefits for your infant. This includes:
- Improving digestion, as it helps babies clear bowels and releases abdominal gas
- Encouraging good blood circulation
- Helping build bone density and firm up soft muscles
- Soothing babies to restful sleep, especially in colicky babies
- Helping clear the lymphatic system of toxins
- Helping you check your child for cleanliness in hidden areas, such as the navel region, below the chin, between fingers and toes, nails, etc.
- Encouraging interaction between you and your baby
Baby Massage Benefits for Mum
Parents also benefit from this soothing touch therapy in babies. Some of the positive effects of baby massage on parents are the following:
- Massaging your baby regularly is known to produce the well-being hormone known as oxytocin and reduce the production of cortisol in new mothers. This, in turn, reduces the chances of developing postnatal blues or depression.
- While massaging babies, mothers become more attentive to nonverbal cues and facial expressions. This helps the mother read her child more accurately.
How to Massage Baby
Image source: iStock
A baby massage should be oil-based because it helps to reduce friction on skin-to-skin touch and rubbing. A massage is nice to do after a warm bath with a lovely fluffy towel for the baby to lie on.
Natural oils, which do not have too much heat or chemicals, are recommended for massaging. These include coconut oil, almond oil, sesame oil, olive oil, or even ghee (clarified butter). Mass-produced baby oils are mineral-based and have little nutritional value.
It is important to remember that what is applied to the skin is absorbed by the body and can nourish and strengthen the skin, bones and muscles of a growing infant.
Step by Step Baby Massage
Baby massage starts at the feet by gently lifting the legs up and down. You can also make them cycle in the air, and remember to massage around the navel area and downward from the chest.
Make it a point to pull and press along the ears. Then take both arms, crisscross them and wrap them around the child as if hugging them. Babies love this! This self-hug pose also helps to calm colic babies. Fold the baby’s knees at the waist for the “wind release posture”. This is effective in relieving gas in the colon.
For older infants (five months and up), raise the legs and bend them back toward the head. This enhances digestion and spinal flexibility with babies lying face down on their bellies, stroke the back of the head down the spine in a slow, firm zigzag motion.
Watch out for baby’s wee, especially the boys!
How to Massage Baby’s Face
You can also begin with a facial as it is great to work on eye contact first with the baby before massaging the rest of the body.
Lay a blanket on the floor where you can perform the massage on your baby. Apply oil to your baby’s navel and the part behind the ears to warm up. Afterwards, rub your palms together to warm them.
Glide your hands gently around your baby’s face, starting from the top of their head and going to their chin and neck. Once you have reached the chin, lift your palms, place them back on the top of the baby’s scalp, and repeat the gliding motion in a downward direction.
Afterwards, you can gauge if the baby is receptive to the massage, and you can go on, or if you need to stop and try another day again.
The Wind Release Posture
Bend Over Backwards (5+ Months)
How to Massage Baby’s Tummy
Massaging a baby’s tummy can help them feel better. Here’s how to do it properly:
- Lay the baby down on their back and support their head with your hand.
- Put the baby’s legs straight in the air and hold them there for a few seconds. Then, bring one leg down at a time, so it rests on the other leg.
- Use your thumbs to rub around the baby’s belly button in a circular motion, making sure not to press too hard on anything that might hurt them.
- After massaging one side, repeat on the other until you’re satisfied that they are feeling better!
Baby Constipation Massage
There are many reasons why babies can get constipated. Sometimes it is because of a milk allergy, or because the baby is not drinking enough water, or maybe because the baby is not getting enough fibre in their diet.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to help your baby get relief from constipation. One of the best ways to treat constipation in babies is by massaging their stomachs. The best time to do this is after feeding or before bedtime.
Place the baby on his or her back on your lap and gently massage their stomach in circular motions while using your other hand to support the head and neck (see illustration). You should massage for around two minutes until you feel them relax and burp up some gas bubbles.
If you don’t feel any gas bubbles coming up after five minutes, stop and try again later or wait until after they’ve gone to sleep and then try again when they wake up in the middle of the night!
How to Massage Baby Tummy for Gas
It’s time to learn how to massage the baby’s tummy for gas.
Massaging your baby’s belly can be a great way to help them get rid of gas. Here’s how:
- Lay your baby on his back, or place him in the crook of your arm in a sitting position. Make sure he’s comfortable and happy before you start massaging.
- Place one hand over his belly button, then make small circular motions with your hand in a clockwise direction for about 30 seconds or so.
- Switch hands and move counterclockwise for 30 seconds or so. You can also use two hands at once by placing one palm on the other and moving them both in opposite directions; this is particularly effective if your baby has lots of gas!
- Repeat this process until you see results—usually within 10 minutes!
Father gives his 4 month old son a gentle massage around his chest and stomach area showing nurturing, caring and bonding time with father and baby
Precautions When Doing a Baby Massage
A massage sounds soothing and therapeutic and is probably an excellent way to calm a fussy baby. However, if not done properly, you won’t be able to reap all the benefits of a baby massage, and it may even put your baby at risk for accidents and injuries.
Here are some things to take note of to make sure your baby gets a safe and soothing experience:
“Schedule” the massage when your baby is in a good mood.
Look out for cues in her actions if she is receptive to it. Some signs include good eye contact, a relaxed “open” body posture, smiles and some babbling. Meanwhile, being fussy, lack of eye contact and crying may indicate that she’s not in the mood.
According to Sylvie Hetu, a certified trainer from the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), research has shown that babies don’t fancy light touches, which tend to be ticklish and rev up the nervous system. Try giving your bub a gentle but firm touch. In applying pressure, look out for signs of discomfort and adjust accordingly.
One of the benefits of baby massage is the connection you develop with your child through touch. However, the connection could get disrupted if you are always on your phone, watching a tutorial video, or multitasking. Not being attentive to your child while giving them a massage can also put them at risk for injuries or accidents. Focus on the task at hand.
Choose a safe place where the baby will not fall.
Giving your baby a massage may cause them to be too relaxed to be cautious about their surroundings. So do not put your baby on a table or a tall bed when giving a massage. It’s better to put a towel on the floor and do the massage there to prevent accidents.
Refrain from using strong oils.
According to Sylvie, essential oils should not be used on babies below 6 months because some studies suggest it can be dangerous to their nervous system. Besides, since babies have a habit of putting their hands in their mouths, they risk ingesting the oil. Stick to unscented oils or have a neutral scent like grapeseed or sunflower oil.
Make sure you wash your hands before giving your bub a good rub
After an oil massage, administering a baby scrub is a good idea. Baby scrubs are done on the feet, legs, hands, arms, belly, and back. Face and head areas should be avoided. A baby scrub helps the infant get rid of dead skin and nourish it to maintain its pH balance.
To make a homemade scrub, add two to three tablespoons of gram flour, fresh yoghurt or milk and half a teaspoon of turmeric. Mix the paste and then gently rub the paste on the baby, starting with the legs and moving upwards.
Make sure the baby is on a plastic mat, as the scrub leaves a yellow stain. Keep rubbing until the paste dries and begins to flake off. The baby is then ready for a quick wash and a good night’s sleep.
Reminder, mums: Before applying the scrub on your baby’s skin, remember to try it on yourself first. Do a patch test by applying a small amount to your skin. You can dab a little on your bub’s skin if it does not produce some negative reactions. If everything looks fine, you can proceed with the baby scrub for a complete pampering experience.
AsiaOne, NCT, BBC
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