When to Start a Baby Massage
If you want to begin with baby massage, you can step-by-step do so as soon as you have become acquainted with each otherDo not force the start but start when the time feels rightIn India, for example, it is common to begin when the baby is about one month old
The most important thing is that you are close to each other as much as possible in the beginningRemember, it is not the massage technique that is most important but that you are touching your baby with warm, loving hands and with a total presence.
You can start massaging your baby even if it is a little olderIt is not too late to start also if you get the idea of massaging your baby at a later stage or if you get an adopted baby that is not a newborn.
The best time to do massage
It is very individual when it will suit you and your baby in finding the actual time for the massageFor some, it might be in the morning after finishing the morning procedures, while others prefer a quiet moment in the afternoon or before bedtime at night
The best time to give a baby massage may change according to the child’s growth and varying sleeping and eating habitsThe baby must be neither newly fed nor hungry or too tiredTry to find time during the day best suitable for both of you.
When to interrupt or not to do the massage
Do not try to massage the baby against its willIt might happen the baby is not at all in the mood and dislikes the activityThe massage moment means to be a positive and relaxing experience for both of you
If the baby is objecting through displays of persistent crying or other signs of discomfort, then waitIt does happen that the baby expresses itself through crying when tension is releasedRemember that birth is often a struggle for the little one.
It may have been pinched or pressed during delivery, and the memories activated through baby massage may be expressed by cryingIf this happens, the best thing you can do is to show your empathy and allow the baby space and the time it needs to heal the painful memories
Crying is the only way of expressing pain and sorrow that the baby has, so just hold it and listen to the story told in its criesTry massaging the baby again later or another day.
If a newborn has difficulties in maintaining its body heat, or if the temperature inside is not sufficient (less than 72 degrees Fahrenheit), it is not advisable to undress for the baby massageInstead, keep it close to your body, stroking it over its clothes on the body parts you can reach.
Where to do baby massage
The most important thing when considering the place for massage is that it is a warm and draft-free spotIt may be done indoors or outdoors, on a bed or sofa, on the floor or ground, in your lap, or on a nursing table
Whatever location you choose for massage, make sure that you have soft bedding for the baby to lie on, preferably made of washable and natural fabric such as cottonA thick cotton blanket covered with terry towels works well
If you choose to enjoy the warmth and fresh smells of being outside on a summer day, remember not to expose the baby to direct sunlight.
How often baby massage can do
In principle, you may massage your baby every dayIf you are aware of the baby’s preference, you will know when to shorten the session or when to rest for a day.
If sometimes the breaks between massages may be extended, do not burden your conscience with that, remembering it must be pleasurable to massage the baby.
Older siblings may also ask for attention, making it hard to find a quiet, peaceful moment alone with the new babyIn such cases, it can be an advantage to have the father step in and take over the massageInviting the siblings into the massage may also be a success.
If you feel you do not have the time to massage your baby as often as you would like, remember body contact and closeness are the most importantYou can still carry the baby and co-sleep with it.
How to best position yourself for giving massage
You have a great variety of alternatives to choose from when it comes to positioning yourself for massageIn the beginning, during the baby’s first weeks and months, you may prefer to sit leaning against a wall or a backrest with your legs bent if you are leaning against a wall you might want to put a cushion behind your back.
In this position, the baby can lie in the cradle created by your legs and lower abdomenIf you find it comfortable, you can also sit with straight legs out in front of you, placing the baby on your thighs.
If you choose to put the baby in front of you, then you may also, for example, sit with straight, spread legsYou may even sit on your heels with your legs spread or together
If you are flexible and you find it comfortable, you can relax in the squatting position, sitting between your heels instead of on themIn any case, try to sit in a suitable place using cushions to avoid too much pressure on your ankles and tail bone
Your position should be comfortable and restful enough to allow you to maintain it throughout the whole massage without being botheredDo also think of bending forward from your hips instead of crouching over to prevent tiring your back.
If you are giving your baby massage at a nursing table, try to stand as close as possibleYou will have better eye contact with the baby, and your working position will be better as well.
How to prepare for baby massage
Once the right conditions for time and location set, you will then need to get some extra towelsThe baby might urinate or even have a bowel movement during the massage, but this is a sign of relaxation and should not react negatively
An extra diaper to put on afterwards should always be availableFor the baby that has started to discover the world and therefore has a hard time lying still, an exciting toy might come in handy.
Last but not least, baby massage oil should be easy to reachMaybe you have made time to heat it in the microwave oven or hot water(Caution! Make sure the oil is not too hotAlways try it on yourself first.)
You may, of course, massage without oil, but research has shown that babies react better to massage with oilWhen it comes to oil, it is of great importance what kind of oil you use for massaging your baby
The skin of the baby is delicate, and products that could harm their soft integument should not useVirgin vegetable oil is the best choice, and there are many different vegetable oils to choose from
Light oils such as safflower, thistle, and grape seed oil are suitable to use for baby massageShea butter, avocado, olive, sesame, and jojoba oil are, in the order mentioned, fat to semi-fat alternatives
Apricot oil, peanut oil, almond oil, and macadamia nut oil can also be used but should be used with care if hypersensitivity or allergies to nuts runs in the familyWheat germ oil is fatty and rich with vitamin E, and can since it has a strong smell, mix with other oils
During hot summer days, coconut oil and safflower oil can use since they have a cooling effect on the bodyIn wintertime, the babies can massage with mustard seed oil mix or sesame oil, which has a warming impact.
One reason why it is essential to use clean, vegetable oil is that the baby may suck on its handsWhatever we use to massage the baby could then enter its digestive system
The human body quickly digests vegetable oils since the structure of the fat in oils is very similar to the structure of the fat in the human bodyMany oils and lotions marketed for babies are, unfortunately, made of mineral oil.
That oil delivers out of a non-organic petroleum compoundMineral oil is hard to absorb and tends to cover the skin like a film and clog the poresTherefore, for the sake of your baby, avoid all such products that contain mineral oil (such as Vaseline and paraffin-based products).
Before you start massaging, you want to warm your hands, take a deep breath, relax, and ask the baby for permission to massage itEstablish eye contact and ask the baby out loud, “Would you like a massage?”
It may seem illogical, but it acts as a signal that the massage will be on the terms of the babyBeginning the massage in this manner will allow the baby to respond with its wishes.
How long to proceed with baby massage
For infants under the age of one month, the massage should not be longer than ten minutesOtherwise, 15-20 minutes is usually an optimum amount of timeOnce you are used to the routine, you can stretch it to half an hour, if you and your baby feel like it
Stop before either of you finds it annoyingThe massage must be associated with a positive experience.
If the baby enjoys a massage, you can continue throughout the infancyIn India, it is common for infants to be massaged daily until the age of six months; after that, they massage less frequently
The baby, in fact, never gets too old to be given a massageAs the child ages, it will move from baby massage to child massage, and later in life, Swedish massage or other bodyworks will be used to assure continued health and wellbeing.
How to give massage when the baby starts walking The massage might need to be adjusted when the baby moves to motor development stages and does not find it interesting to lie still long enough to be massaged
You might need to massage the baby in a sitting position and in a more playful waySometimes only short sequences will do, and in some phases of development, the baby simply will show that it does not have time to receive a massageThere are so many other things to discover and learn about
Do not insist on massaging the little one if other things have higher priorityInstead, try using the spontaneous moments of closeness and cuddling, which occur during the dayIt is perfectly adequate to stroke the baby on top of its clothes while it sits in your lap or put to sleep
Sometimes one needs to take a break from massageUsually, new phases occur in the baby’s life when both physical and psychological support and tactile stimuli are requiredIt is then you need to be there with your hands full of love and presence.
How to massage babies with special needs
Babies with special needs may benefit significantly from being massagedFor babies with mental tardiness, physical handicap, hearing impairment, blindness, etcmassage can have a positive impact.
You can massage a baby with a handicap the same way you do with a baby without a handicapIf stroking under the foot triggers reflexes and tension in the legs, you should instead stroke more on the edges and top of the footFor babies drooling a lot and breathing through their mouths, facial massage, especially around the mouth, is good
If a physical therapist treats the baby, you may ask him or her for more advice regarding your child.
Blind babies have shown to develop better when the tactile sense train through full body massagePay attention to keeping skin contact with the baby throughout the massage and talk to it, explaining what you are doing
Even a deaf or hearing impaired baby should be communicated to softly and lovingly during the massage sessionEye contact is of great importance and should keep as much as possible.
Adopted infants may also benefit significantly from the contact created through baby massageFor both parties, massage may be one way of learning to know each other.
In some children, hypersensitivity or tactile defense may seeThese hypersensitive babies, who react with dislike when touched, should be massaged with firmer pressure
Through starting with short sessions, concentrating on pressing and stroking the body with a terry cloth, the brain can help to organize betterOften one can overcome hypersensitivity through perseverance and slow transitions from pressing and holding to gliding strokes with the palm.
Premature babies can massage as soon as they have reached the weight of 1000 grams (2 pounds 2 ounces)Take it easy in the beginning and start by only holding the baby’s body parts
Relax yourself and share peaceful relaxation with your baby through your handsTalk to it and encourage it to let go of tension and relaxReward the infant when you notice a changeAfter holding and practicing the relaxation technique for a couple of days, you may start massaging lightly with oil.
Infant colic and intestinal gas are painful for the babyThe situation may also be frustrating to the parents who powerlessly have to watch their baby in obvious painMassage can ease light gas problems to full-blown colic
It stimulates the gastro-intestinal tract to function betterAlong with massage, carrying the baby and checking the diet of the breastfeeding mother are suggested
Gas forming foods should avoid; milk and gluten should be eliminated from the diet to see if that can help cure the ailing baby
How to start
Start by getting to know one body part at a time and then adding a new one each time you massageThis will give the infant a chance to get used to the massage
In the beginning, you may be unpretentious, aiming for just spreading the oil on the tiny bodyWhen you get into the habit of using your hands and fingers, Eventually, you can increase the massage to cover the whole body
You may also start by massaging legs and feet when changing the diapersThe abdomen should not be pressed until the umbilicus has healed.
You may find useful information in our other articles about infant massage & child massage done by professionals.