There is nothing more soothing than touch, especially for babies. Touch is one of the five senses and the most developed at birth for a baby, which is why when you pick your baby up, they often calm down from crying, will fall asleep, and smile. Incorporating a gentle baby massage into your routine has enormous health benefits for your baby.
Baby Massage Benefits
A baby massage can ease tummy trouble, teething pain, boost muscle development, calm a baby down, soothe a baby to sleep, help you bond with your baby, and help your own sense of peace and calm. A baby massage can also help the dad bond too! And, you can start baby massages the day you bring baby home.
Some more benefits for baby include:
- Improves general well-being
- Improves circulation
- Enhances immune system function
- Helps to improve sensory and body awareness
- Enhances neurological development
- Helps to increase oxygen and nutrient flow to cells. Improves respiration
- Enhances release of hormones in the body. The growth hormone can be stimulated which helps weight gain.
- Reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone
- Stimulates all of the physiological systems. Massage sparks the neurons in their brains to grow and branch out to encompass other neurons.
Baby Massage Do’s and Don’ts
Do make baby massage a part of your routine with baby. We all know that baby’s need routine. If you incorporate baby massage, be sure to massage your baby at the same time every day. There is no right time for baby massage, but if you notice that there are specific times when your baby gets fussier, that is a great time to plan for the massage. It’s also important to find a time when you can take your time or when your baby isn’t hungry or just after your baby has eaten.
Do not use scented massage oils meant for adults. You can use massage oil on your baby, but be sure it is unscented, edible, cold-pressed fruit or vegetable oil. Some good options are coconut, canola, corn, olive, grape seed, avocado or safflower oil. These types of oils are easily absorbed into your baby’s skin and easily digested if your baby sucks on their fingers or puts their fingers or toes into their mouth. Use small amounts and do not use mineral oil or baby oil, as that will clog your baby’s pores. Also, stay away from nut oils, like almond oil, because of the potential for allergies.
Do follow the cues from your baby. If your baby doesn’t seem to want the massage, then stop. Some cues you might be a frown, crying, baby turning away from you or wiggling around as if he is in discomfort. You can always try later. Also, keep in mind, not every baby massage has to be a full body massage. You can just massage legs or feet.
Don’t give the massage in an uncomfortable cold space. Both you and baby need to be comfortable during the baby massage, but for baby a warmer space of at least 75 degrees is best. Remember, baby will be naked or nearly naked. Consider your changing table if that is a place that baby is comfortable or your bed or a rug. You can put on some soothing background music, talk to your baby, or even sing to them softly.
Do be gentle. It’s important that you don’t apply too much pressure during your baby massage. The massage is meant to help you bond with your baby and to soothe and calm him. Stroking your baby away from the heart (shoulder to wrist) is more relaxing for baby, while stroking toward the heart (wrist to shoulder) is stimulating.
How to Give a Baby Massage
Baby Legs – Wrap your hands around your baby’s leg and gently, but firmly, glide your hands down from thigh to ankle. Do these three to five times on each leg.
Baby Belly – With your hands at the same level as the baby’s belly button, rub your fingertips gently, but firmly in clockwise circular motion over the tummy.
Baby Arms – Starting at the shoulder and moving down to the wrist, gently roll your baby’s arm between your hands. Do these three to five times on each arm.
Baby Neck – Start by supporting your baby’s head and upper body with one hand. With the other hand, place your thumb on one side of the neck and your first two fingers on the other side and gently rub with your fingertips in a circular motion.
Baby Colic-Relief Massage – Give the baby belly massage first and then bend the baby’s knees up to the tummy and hold that for about 30-seconds and release. Repeat that a few times and then place the edge of your hand at the baby’s belly button and glide your hand down in a rhythmic patter to help release gas.
Baby Back – Stroke your baby’s back side to side and then up and down.
Baby Chest – Fold your hands on your baby’s chest and then push out to the sides gently, but firmly.
Whether your baby is a newborn or several years old, baby massage can bring immediate and lasting results. Motherhood Center offers an infant massage class if you would like some guidance before adding this to your baby care routine!