Techniques of Infant Massage
Touching Your Way to a Calmer Baby
The age-old practice of infant and baby massage can work wonders on babies’ physical, as well as emotional, well-being. A massage can give lot of benefits like improving the gastrointestinal function of a baby, helping ease gas pain and colic. Calming your baby through massage reduces stress levels (in parents as well) and helps him or her sleep more deeply. Infant massage is a learning process, and is as individual as the baby itself. Following are basic techniques with which to start.
Babies can be massaged with virtually any type of lubricant. However, I recommend natural oils as opposed to traditional baby oil or lotion. Baby oil tends to be extremely oily, and doesn’t absorb as well as natural oils. Use a plant-based oil, such as grapeseed or sweet almond. These absorb well and won’t hurt the baby if and when their hands (or feet) go into their mouth.
Before massaging your baby, make sure the conditions are right. Be sure you have time to properly complete a massage. Rushing through the routine will not allow you or your baby to reap all the benefits. Try to perform the massage at the same time every day, such as in the morning or before baby’s afternoon nap. This allows your baby to establish a routine, and he or she will eventually know when to expect it. Make sure the room is warm, since the baby will be dressed only in a diaper (or nothing at all) during the massage. Keep the lighting soft in order to add to the relaxing atmosphere.
Massage each area for a couple of minutes, but move on to the next area if your baby doesn’t seem to enjoy the one you’re on. Always use a soft, gentle touch with even strokes and small, circular motions. First, use your thumb and index finger to stroke from the toe to the heel along the bottom of the foot, then from the toe to the ankle on top of the foot. Then, massage from the ankle to the hip using a slow, circular motion. Use this same motion to stroke your baby’s belly in a clockwise direction below their ribs. Then, beginning in the middle of your baby’s chest, stroke out the to the sides. Stroke your baby’s palm and the top of his or her hand, then gently roll their fingers. Stroke from the wrist to the shoulder, then use small, circular motions to massage around each shoulder. While cradling your baby’s head in both hands, use your thumbs to stroke his or her head in a circular motion (being careful to avoid soft spots). Finish by placing your baby on their belly. Stroke your baby from the shoulders to their bottom and back to the shoulders.
There are numerous massage techniques, so try a variety and see which your baby seems to enjoy most. Many good videos can be found online that illustrate various techniques and strokes. Or, if you wish, take a class in infant massage offered through your local hospital.