Massage is an excellent way to relax and bond with a baby. It offers many benefits, both physical and mental; encouraging good circulation, helping to promote sleep-even relieving colic. All that is needed to get started is a warm, safe environment and good baby friendly massage oil.
Massage Benefits for Babies
Baby massage offers a number of physical and emotional benefits. They include:
- Bonding with baby. Baby massage is a good way to learn to handle a baby with confidence. It’s also a lovely way to building a sense of security in a child by offering reassurance and affection through touch.
- Relaxation. Gentle massaging of the body can help relax a child. Massage can be especially good to help a fractious baby calm down or unwind before bed.
- Encourages coordination of the limbs and flexibility in joints and muscles.
- Helps with the baby’s digestion.
- Helps improve the baby’s skin: massage oil is good for dry skin or nappy rash.
- Stimulates the circulation.
Preparing for Infant Massage
Before beginning to massage a baby, there are a number of things to plan and prepare:
- Pick the right time. Pick a time that is quiet and relaxing to massage. After a bath or at bedtime is ideal.
- Pick a comfortable environment. Choose a place where massage can be comfortably carried out – a changing table or the floor is ideal.
- Set the scene. Make sure the room is warm and draught free. Set up the massage area with soft, warm towels for the baby to lie on. Keep plenty of spares handy. Babies can have accidents when their nappy is off.
- Tell the baby what is happening. Talk to the child throughout and maintain eye contact to build up respect and trust.
Suitable Massage Base Oils
Selecting baby-friendly base oil is essential. Avoid all nut oils, especially those that are peanut based because of the likelihood of allergic reactions. The only exception to this is sweet almond oil which is safe for babies and good for dry, delicate skins that are prone to irritation.
As a rule, try to use oils derived from fruits and flowers. Good, safe choices include:
- Grapeseed oil. Good for all skin types
- Olive oil.
- Sunflower oil.
- Wheatgerm oil-use for eczema, and dry skin conditions.
If in doubt about the type of base oil to use, seek professional help.
Before beginning the massage, remove all of the baby’s clothing, including the nappy. Apply oil to the hands, not directly onto the baby’s skin. Use plenty to avoid causing friction.
When massaging, use strokes towards the heart to help the blood flow. Always massage the abdomen in a clockwise direction.
Below is a selection of ways to massage each part of a baby’s body. Always be firm but gentle when massaging a baby. Don’t continue massaging if the baby is at all distressed or unhappy. Similarly, don’t try to massage areas that she doesn’t like. Concentrate on the ones she does.
- Stroke up the leg from the ankle. Do both legs, one at a time.
- Gently massage first the thigh, then the calves by gently circling the area with the thumbs.
- Gently stretch each leg by encircling it with the hands or fingers and gently pulling down. The legs can then be bent and flexed very gently as if changing a nappy and the soles of the feet tapped together.
- Holding the legs once again in the nappy changing position, gently massage the baby’s buttocks.
- Complete the legs by stroking the length of both legs at the same time.
- Gently stroke across the top of the foot, from the outside inwards. Do one foot at a time.
- Again on the top of the foot, use the thumb to stroke down from the ankle to the toes.
- Massage the soles of the feet gently with the thumb.
- To help ease colic, use two fingers, to gently stroke around the umbilicus in a clockwise direction. This movement can then be extended across the whole abdomen. Avoid using this technique immediately after a meal.
- To finish, gently stroking across the abdomen from one side to the other.
Arms, chest and shoulders and back:
- Gently circling the shoulders before stroking down each arm one at a time.
- Gently stroke from the shoulders and down each side of the chest using the finger tips.
- Put the baby onto her front. Gently stroke down the whole back from the shoulders to the legs. Then run the fingers down the spine in a rain drop motion.
Don’t massage immediately after a baby has had injections – leave it at least 48 hours. Similarly, avoid massage if the baby is on medication, is recovering from surgery or has open wounds or broken bones, a cold or any other illness. If in doubt, don’t massage