Massaging baby – why and how?

baby massageBaby massage has been practiced in India for centuries. Apart from helping build a strong emotional bond with baby, massaging benefits baby in several ways.

  • It can help strengthen baby’s bones, improve blood circulation and pass wind easily.
  • Research also shows that babies who are massaged sleep better and have lesser stress hormones than infants who aren’t.
  • Infant massage is good for the parents as it releases Oxytocin, the hormone that helps reduce stress.

In India, baby massage starts in the first week of birth itself. It is usually done before a bath using baby oil or edible vegetable oil.
In north and east India, mustard oil is used. In south India, coconut oil is used. Almond oil and olive oil are also commonly used oils. It is advisable to warm the oil a little before massaging.

Make sure the oil suits your baby’s skin

Choosing the perfect oil is important for your baby’s comfort. Hence it is important to keep a check on your baby’s skin. If the baby’s skin shows irritation or reacts adversely to the oil, it is important to discontinue the oil and change it.

How to massage baby?

Getting ready: Before you start, keep all the things needed for the massage ready so that it is within your hands reach – towels, tissues, massage oil etc.

Once you’re ready, pick up the baby, undress him and place him face downward on your outstretched legs.

Take a few drops of the pre-warmed oil on your hands and rub it between your palms. 

Start with the back and arms: Apply the oil on the baby’s back and with smooth gentle strokes, run your hands along baby’s back from bottom upwards up to his shoulders, Then using downward movement, stroke the arms. Repeat three to four times, till the oil has spread evenly. Make sure not to put too much pressure, especially in the spine and neck area as they are very delicate.
Keep talking to the baby or sing soft songs while massaging to distract the baby and keep him from crying.

Move on to the lower body: Once you’ve finished with the back, you can move on to the thigh and leg region. Run your hands along the length of the leg. When you reach the foot, start again from the top.

Next, the chest and shoulders: Turn the baby so that he’s lying on his back. Massage the chest bottom upwards towards the collarbones and down along the arms right up to his fingers. As you did for the legs, start from the top and work downwards.

Finally, the face: To massage face, starts at centre the forehead using circular movements. Move from between the eyes, over the eyebrows, down the sides of the face and along the jaw, finishing on the chin. Then use a few strokes down the nose.

You can use any of the readymade baby oils available in the market. However, do be sure, you choose only reputed and well known brands. You could also prepare your own baby oil at home.

How to prepare mustard oil for baby at home

Mustard oil – type 1
· 1 bowl mustard oil
· 3-5 pods of garlic

Heat oil with garlic pods. Cool down the oil, filter the oil and use this for baby’s massage.

Mustard oil – type 2
· 1 bowl mustard oil
· 1 spoon of ajwain (Carom seeds)

Heat oil. Add ajwain till it crackles. Cool down the oil, filter the oil and use this for baby’s massage.

Important things to remember while massaging baby

  • As far as possible, use edible oils like coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil or mustard oil
  • If using mineral oil, use baby oils from reputed brands.
  • Remove accessories like rings, bangles etc. from baby’s body before starting massage as they can come in the way of your massage and injure baby.
  • Be careful to avoid the ears or nose while oiling. If oil gets in, it can lead to infections.
  • Be gentle. There is no need to put pressure or use rough strokes or stretch your baby’s limbs or nose.
  • Warm the oil by rubbing it between your palms
  • Choose a warm place. Expose baby to the cold can make it sick.
  • Keep bath ready for baby before you start massaging. Wash off oil well with hot water during bath using a gentle baby soap or cleanser.