Research has shown that baby massage can help babies bond with their parents, sleep, settle, reduce crying and help with digestion. Baby and infant massage has long been a part of raising a baby in Asian and African cultures, now Western cultures are embracing the benefits of infant massage.
A 2013 study by the Cochrane Institute observed that many parents saw higher levels of melatonin and lower levels of the stress hormone “cortisol” in babies who were massaged regularly.
Another huge benefit of infant massage is you create a strong bond with your child. Studies on the emotional and mental effects of baby massage might be limited but this study found a significant, positive impact on bonding.
Benefits of performing infant/baby massage include:
- It promotes bonding and attachment between the infant and parent
- Stimulates natural hormones within the infant
- Reduces crying and fussiness
- Helps alleviate gas
- Relaxes the infant
- Reducing irritation from skin conditions
- Improved sleep patterns
- Reducing congestion
Massaging your infant can become a special part of your day you both look forward to.
Create an atmosphere that’s comfortable for both you and your child. A calm, warm and not too bright area will often provide best results. It is best to avoid massaging too soon after feeding.
As this this is a time for bonding, connecting and learning – make sure you maintain eye contact, smile and communicate throughout the massage.
Babies are often used to being touched around their legs as part of nappy changing, so starting with the legs will assist with the baby feeling relaxed at the start of the massage.
Next, move onto your baby’s arms, belly, back and head. Remember to watch for prompts like their arms moving, which might indicate they want you to move onto a different area.
Legs and Feet:
Simply start with simple long strokes to signify this is the beginning of the massage period.
Holding one leg, gently clasp your baby’s thigh then stroke down in a “milking” motion.
Use two thumbs to alternately place pressure on the soles and tops of their feet.
Use this opportunity to talk to your baby to educate them about parts of their body as you perform the massage.
Arms and Hands:
Holding one arm, gently clasp the upper arm and stroke down in the same “milking effect”.
Use two thumbs to alternately place pressure on the palms of their hand.
Chest and Belly:
Use the palm of your hand to stroke outwards across your baby’s chest.
When massaging the tummy, use gentle, clockwise strokes to follow the path of digestion and avoid pressure on the bladder.
This is a great place to make eye contact to connect with your baby.
Starting up at their neck, run two thumbs or fingers all the way down their spine and onto the backs of each leg.
Flatten your hand and stroke vertically up and down.
Head and Face:
Cup your hands at the back of your baby’s head and run your thumbs from the crown of their head to the back.
Move onto the face by keeping your hands around their head and using your thumbs to gently stroke from the centre of the forehead outward above the Browline.
Use your fingers to rub light circles over their cheeks.
Run your thumbs outward from the centre above their lips and then below.
Is it best to use oil?
The main purpose of massage oil is to lubricate the skin to reduce friction while the therapist is performing a massage. Secondary benefits include moisturising, nourishing, rejuvenating and hydrating your skin.
If you are not sure about using oil, just start with a few drops. One of the most important decisions you need to make is:
“What type of oil will you use on your babies skin?”
Most baby oils are made using mineral oil. Mineral oils are a by-product of petroleum and work by creating a film over the skin, so it clogs the pores and can disrupt natural absorption and secretion.
Why use synthetic or chemical based products when natural products contain vitamin E, monounsaturated fatty acids, proteins, potassium, zinc and other minerals that are good for your heart, skin, body, scalp and hair.
My Natural Being Multi-Purpose Baby Oil is made from a premium steam distilled Almond Oil. Almond oil is a mild, hypoallergenic oil that can be safely used even on your baby’s skin. In fact, it is one of the best massage oils for infants and adults. Almond oil is low on the comedogenic scale so it won’t clog your pores.
Almond oil is also rich in Vitamin E so it nourishes your baby’s skin and promotes positive skin health. It absorbs quickly without leaving greasy residue.
How often should you massage your baby?
Make sure you are both relaxed, it might only be for 5 minutes or your baby might enjoy a longer massage period. You might want to perform a massage immediately before or after a bath, it might become part of the bedtime ritual, it is completely up to you.