Baby massage has been practiced throughout the ages and in many countries, especially Asia and Africa. Only in recent years, has the western world taken notice and started implementing this.
Massage is basically the therapeutic application of touch.
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Important Note: You do not use light touch, as this will feel more like tickling and have the opposite effect, than what you want to accomplish. Gentle, but deep pressure stimulates both tactile and pressure receptors.
There are many different techniques in massage therapy, and the same goes for baby massage.
The basic idea though, is that you gently knead, stroke or rub the muscles and soft tissue on each part of a baby's body. By doing this, you help your baby relax, heal and bond with you (and vice versa!).
While massaging your baby, keep eye contact and gently talk or sing to your baby. This should be an enjoyable time for the both of you! When you feel calm and relaxed, your baby will relax too. If your baby gets irritated or restless, you can stop and try again some other time.
Baby massage should be kept as a pleasant experience, do not allow it to become just another chore in your baby care routine.
If your baby is sick, has a fever, diarrhea or a skin rash, it is better to skip the massage. Unless of course your doctor recommends otherwise.
To avoid your baby from bringing up their milk, do not massage your baby directly after a feed.
Also, ensure that your baby is in a good mood and ready to be massaged. If your baby is calm, content, has a steady gaze and relaxed limbs (or reaches out to you after telling your baby it's time for a massage), you know they are ready.
If your baby turns away, becomes stiff and fussy or is crying, it is better to wait until they calm down before trying again.
The time of day that you massage your baby is completely up to you. Some prefer mornings, others make it part of the bath time routine or part of the bed time routine. This might change with time, as your baby grows up. Perhaps your newborn preferred a morning massage, but as they get closer to being a toddler, the massage works better at bedtime to help them to unwind.
Your massage routine will be as unique as you and your baby are!
Make sure that the room is comfortably warm and not too brightly lit. Create a relaxing atmosphere for yourself and your baby. You can put some soft music on.
Place your baby on a flat surface, such as the changing table or sit on the floor or bed. Both of you should be comfortable and safe. Ensure that your baby won't fall off of the changing table or bed, if they make any sudden movements.
Cover the surface with a towel or cloth in case your baby decides to make a wee or poo, so that you can easily clean up the mess. You can also keep your baby's nappy on, if you prefer.
Personally, I used baby lotion or baby oil to massage my own children. The main idea is to reduce friction between your hands and your baby's skin, helping you to glide over your baby with ease and in a continuous motion.
Experts recommend that if you use oil that is edible and odorless. The most popular oils are olive, sweet almond, grape-seed, avocado or sunflower oil. Cold pressed and/or organic are better. Mineral oils are no longer recommended, because they are not absorbed well. Nut oils may cause an allergic reaction, so avoid them.
Test the oil on a small patch of skin first, to ensure that your baby is not allergic.
Some people like to add essential oils to these carrier oils, others prefer not to. Although it might add a lovely scent and provide other benefits, it does take away from the bonding experience. When the oil's scent is neutral (such as vegetable and plant oils), the baby gets to know your own scent or smell better. It adds to the bonding process. This is a personal choice.
Ideally you should get proper training from an infant massage instructor, who will teach you the correct techniques of baby massage.
Baby massage is beneficial to the physical, emotional and developmental well-being of a baby.
Benefits for Baby
Benefits for Parents/Caregivers
(The person doing the massage)
It can also
As you can see massaging your baby is not only good for baby, but good for you too!
I originally planned on creating a step by step guide on how to do baby massage. But the more I researched the subject, the more I realized it wouldn't work. Here's why...
Baby massage is pretty much like learning to play the piano (or any other instrument for that matter).
You can read up all you want about the instrument and get all the theoretical music knowledge in the world. If you don't physically practice playing the instrument though, preferably every single day, that head knowledge alone won't be of much use to you. Knowing and doing are two different things.
The same is true for massaging your baby and learning all sorts of baby massage techniques. So with that in mind, I decided to place some videos here for you to give you an idea of what baby massage looks like.
I strongly recommend that you find an infant massage instructor who can teach you the correct techniques in person and help you "practice" them.
Believe me, it's one of the best investments (referring both to time and money) that you'll make.
Other pages on breastfeeding problems in connection with baby massage tips
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