baby massage tips
Have you ever wondered what your baby is thinking or feeling? The first form of communication that you have with your child is through touch. To a baby, touching is talking. With eye-to-eye and skin-to-skin contact, the exchange of smiles and other facial expressions, baby massage combines the important aspects of bonding between parent and child. It's also a wonderful way for fathers, brothers, sisters and grandparents to share special time with a new addition to the family.
the difference between baby massage and adult massage
In many ways, the techniques of baby massage are different from those used in adult massage. You should always pay attention to the degree of pressure you're using; making sure that every stroke is gentle and slow. Firmer strokes can be used, as your baby grows older. Especially for the first few months of massage, you should use downward strokes, which travel down your baby's body and produce a calming effect. Often times you will only need to use one finger or part of your hand. Avoid upward strokes, which can be too stimulating.
when to give baby a massage
Remember that initially, not all infants will enjoy being massaged. If your baby ever seems irritable to your touch during a massage, discontinue the massage and try again at another time. Baby massage can be done at any time during the day. Some research suggests that the best time to massage your baby is when he is awake and feeling happy. Because your baby can easily pick up on your mood and emotions, you should be feeling calm and relaxed.
benefits of baby massage
Baby massage has a wide range of positive benefits – from enhancing neurological development to helping your baby learn to relax. Massaged babies sleep better and are more alert when awake. This type of contact also develops and supports your baby's self-esteem and lets her know she is loved.
for your baby
- Enhances neurological development
- Improves immune system
- Helps regulate digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems
- Helps relieve discomfort from gas and colic, congestion and teething
- Helps baby learn to relax
- Decreases production of stress hormones
- Reduces crying and fussing
- Promotes sounder and longer sleep
- Promotes positive body image
- Improves bonding and communication
- Provides a special focused time that helps deepen bonding
- Improves parent-child communication
- Helps you understand and respond to your baby's nonverbal cues
- Promotes feelings of competence and confidence in caring for baby
- Increases your ability to help your child relax in times of stress
- Eases the stress you may feel when separated from your baby during the day
- Helps you relax and have fun with your child
preparing for massage
Take time to gather everything you will need to have on hand, so that you can concentrate on the massage. Before you begin, always wash your hands and remove any jewelry that might interfere with your touch.
temperature: Infants tend to lose body heat when exposed to the air. The use of lotion during massage will also reduce body heat. Therefore, the room should be warm enough to keep your baby calm and comfortable. The ideal room temperature is between 78 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
timing: When you're first starting out, allow yourself 10 to 15 minutes. A newborn might enjoy two to five minutes of massage, while a child of two months and older might enjoy a more lengthy one. Wait at least one hour after feedings to do a massage.
choosing the right position: Choose a position that allows you to keep your back straight, so that you will feel comfortable. Always lay your baby on a flat surface covered with a soft blanket or towel.
using lotion: Lotion, like Noodle & Boo's Super Soft Lotion will help your hands move over your baby's body smoothly. Lotion is easily absorbed by the skin and allows for smoother motions on your baby's skin.
instructions for patch test
Place a small amount of lotion on the inside of your baby's wrist or ankle. Wait 20 to 30 minutes to see if a reaction occurs. An adverse reaction would be a rash or a red inflamed area. If there is no irritation, you can safely proceed with the massage. If irritation does occur, DO NOT use any lotion. Please Note: You should NEVER use any product on your baby's head or face during massage, as infants tend to put their hands in their mouths and occasionally rub their eyes. It is also very important to keep the lotion out of reach from your baby. It's a good idea to have a towel nearby to wipe off excess lotion as needed. Be extra careful when picking him up after the massage.
beginning the massage
Once you have warmed the room and have the lotion and a towel ready, undress your baby and lay him down in front of you on his back, with his feet closest to you. Pour lotion into your hands, and then rub your hands together to warm it. Begin with long, gliding strokes, which allow you to spread the lotion and warm the muscles. Look into his eyes, smile and talk to him, then start the massage as explained below.
leg and foot massage: Elevate your baby's left leg with your right hand. Wrap your left hand around the thigh and slowly stroke toward the foot. When you reach the foot, switch hands, stroking with your left hand. After repeating several times, switch to the other leg. To massage the feet, you can press the bottom of the foot gently from the heel to the toe, using your thumbs. Knead each individual toe and make small circles around the ankle.
arm and hand massage: Holding one of the baby's wrists with one hand, use your other hand to gently squeeze along the length of the arm, starting at the shoulder. When you reach your baby's wrist, switch hands. Repeat. To massage your baby's hand, use your thumb to open it if it's clenched. Roll each finger between your forefinger and thumb. Make tiny circles around the wrist with your thumb and fingertips.
chest and stomach: Strokes on the stomach should always be made downward and clockwise. Place both of your hands flat, side by side, in the middle of the chest and push out to the sides gently, following the ribs. Position your hands so that they rest on either side of the baby's torso, just above the hipbones. Keeping your hand flat, use one hand to stroke diagonally across the baby's chest to the opposite shoulder. Cup the shoulder, and push down gently. Gently slide your hand back to its starting position. Repeat several times, and then switch to the opposite shoulder.
face and head: Start by using your fingertips to make small circles along the side of the jaws. Position your fingers on the forehead and gently stroke from the center out towards the temples. With the tips of your fingers, gently make small circles all over the head. Stay away from the soft spot (fontanel) on the head. You can circle the eyes with your thumbs, gently moving out along the eyebrows and back under the eyes. The preceding techniques have been derived from: Sullivan, Lucy Emerson. "How to Baby your Baby: With a Massage." (1996).
This information is intended as a guide to baby massage and is not intended to replace formal instruction on baby massage or advice from your child's physician. Baby massage is not appropriate for premature or medically challenged babies. If your child has a condition or illness, you should consult your physician prior to beginning any massage. Massaging your baby is a beautiful and loving way to begin a lifelong relationship. It can strengthen your baby's muscles and joints and help relieve the symptoms of common childhood ailments; but most importantly, it allows you to express your love through touch and helps you establish a relationship with your child early on in life.
Bainbridge, N., et al. (2000) Baby Massage:The Calming Power of Touch. DorlingKindersley.
McClure, V. (2000) Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents. Bantam Books.
Sullivan, L. (1996) How to Baby your Baby: With a Massage. The Detroit News.
Cadolino, P. Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), Certified Infant Massage Instructor (CIMI), Stony Brook University Hospital, Member of Oxford Health Plans' Massage Advisory Board.