Baby massage and scrub: Loving touch for you and your baby
We’ve all been there… you’ve just fallen asleep and your newborn starts crying. The sound of your child’s cry immediately wakes you up. You rush to pick up and hold your baby, and within seconds he is calmer and happier.
Imagine if just one touch can soothe your baby right away, what else can a loving, intentional touch do? It’s been validated again and again 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, while warm and cozy 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 massage.
You can experience so much joy and fulfillment 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.
Benefits for baby
- Improves digestion, as it helps babies clear bowels and release abdominal gas
- Encourages good blood circulation
- Helps build bone density and firm up soft muscles
- Lulls babies to restful sleep, and is especially helpful to colicky babies
- Helps clear the lymphatic system of toxins
- Helps you check your child for cleanliness in hidden areas, such as the navel region, below the chin, between fingers and toes, nails, etc.
Benefits for mum
- Massaging your baby regularly is known to produce the wellbeing hormone known as oxytocin, as well as reducing 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 expression. This helps the mother read her child more accurately.
How to do baby massage
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 has the capacity to nourish and strengthen skin, bones and muscles of a growing infant.
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 just love this! This self-hug pose also helps to calm colic babies. Fold the baby’s knees at 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 backwards toward the head. This enhances digestion and spinal flexibility. With babies lying face down on their belly, stroke the back of the head all the way down the spine in a slow, firm zigzag motion.
Watch out for baby’s wee, especially the boys! Do not massage a baby if he or she has fever, mucus congestion, or is in any state of pain or discomfort.
After an oil massage, it is a good idea to administer a baby scrub. Baby scrubs are done on 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 you can add two to three tablespoons of gram flour and 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, moving upwards. Make sure the baby is on a plastic mat, as the scrub leaves a yellow stain. Keep rubbing until paste dries and begins to flake off. The baby is then ready for a quick wash and a good night sleep.