Baby Massage Basics

Baby Massage Basics

Baby massage is fantastic, not just for baby, but for mothers as well.One of the best ways to bond with your baby is through gentle, loving touch. Research has shown that massages can help babies sleep better, alleviate colic, and aid in their emotional as well as physical development. By giving their babies massages, moms can help ward off post-partum depression and generally feel better and more relaxed in spite of the sleep deprivation and stress that accompanies the birth of a newborn. Here we will cover some of the basics of baby massage.

Before beginning a massage, make sure that your baby has not just eaten or is too sleepy to enjoy his massage. He should be in a quiet, alert state. Set aside some time, usually about a half hour, that will be free from distraction or interruption. Since your baby will be either in the buff or just wearing a diaper for his massage, make sure the room is warm enough (but not too warm) and free from any cold drafts. You can give your baby a massage on any flat surface, be it a changing table or a floor.  If you are massaging your baby on the floor, you can create a nest with your legs by placing the soles of your feet together in a seated position and placing him in the middle. This way you will have full access to your baby. If you choose to massage your baby on a raised flat surface like a changing table, ensure that you never leave him unattended.

From there, you can choose an oil for your baby’s massage. Keep in mind that you will be massaging your baby’s fingers and hands and those do tend to end up in your baby’s mouth. Vegetable-based oils are generally edible so those are perfect for your little one’s massage.   Start the massage with your baby on his back.  Maintain eye contact with him and talk or sing to him in a soothing voice throughout the massage. As a warm-up, gently rub him from head to toe a few times and gauge his reaction. If he cries or fusses, simply end the massage and resolve to try again later when he is in better spirits.  If he responds well you have the green light to continue your bonding session.

When you give your baby a massage, keep in mind to use gentle, light strokes—this is not time for a deep tissue rubdown!  However, make sure your strokes are not to light as to be ticklish.  As cute as your baby’s laugh is, he might be uncomfortable if every stroke makes him giggle.  From here you can start with his legs. Using a milking motion with your hands, start from the top of his thigh and continue all the way down to his feet.  Once you are done with one part of your baby’s body it is a good idea to massage the opposite part, for example, once you complete one leg, immediately massage the opposite leg.  After his legs, you can continue to his feet, softly rubbing the tops of his feet, gently pulling on each of his ten tasty toes, and finishing by rubbing your thumbs in a circular pattern on the soles of his feet.

Next, gently rub your baby’s chest and belly in broad upward strokes, always maintaining skin contact with him. From there you can focus on his arms. Like the legs, you can engage your hands in a milking motion starting from the tops of his shoulders and working down to his hands.  Like the feet, give his hands their own massage session by rubbing the tops of them and gently pulling on each finger with your forefinger and thumb and finishing up by rubbing his palms with small circular motions. Then, concentrate on his head by running your thumbs over his forehead, cheeks and ears. 

You can then roll your baby over to his tummy and massage his back. Start with large, flat strokes from the shoulders all the way down to his feet. From there you can focus on gently massaging the small muscles that surround his spine in a circular motion with your fingers. With a couple more all over body strokes you are done with your massage. It is not surprising that your baby will most likely be sleepy and ready to take a nap or go down for the night. It is a great idea, then, to incorporate baby massage as part of a naptime or nighttime ritual.

Bonding through touch is an integral part of your baby’s growth and development and it does wonders for mom as well. Baby massage is a simple and pleasurable way to relax yourself and express your unconditional love for your newborn.

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