Much before we start communicating with our babies through words, the sense of touch fills the gap. When a baby cries or is unable to sleep, we gently stroke its back, or cuddle to soothe and relax it. Massage is a mere extension of soothing and healing touches, which has various other health benefits.
Massage improves the physical strength of the baby by making its bones stronger, stimulating the digestive system, easing the digestive process, and improving appetite. It also helps in the development of mental, social, and emotional health. Massage ensures sound sleep, and reduces crankiness and crying. Moreover, it helps the baby develop an intimate bond with the mother.
A massage is not just helpful to the baby, it also releases Oxytocin in your body, which is a “feel good hormone” – Studies have shown that massage sessions benefit the mother by helping overcome postpartum depression. It also helps the father unwind.
In case of premature babies, massage ensures improved weight gain, stable heart rate, early recovery from jaundice, and healthy brain activity
he best time to massage is between feeds, when the baby is neither completely full nor hungry. Also, ensure that your baby is not sleeping while massaging, so that it can have eye contact and bond which would not happen otherwise.
Make sure to follow a routine for a massage, which helps the baby respond well to it.
Vegetable oil contains linoleic acid, which strengthens the protective barrier of the baby’s skin. Sunflower oil and grapeseed oil are the abundant sources of it. The next best option is olive oil, which should be avoided if your baby has eczema. Mustard oil also causes skin irritation.
If your baby is allergic to peanuts, peanut oil should be avoided as it could cause an allergic reaction(s).
Various brands offer a plethora of baby oils, which are safe to use. You can use these once your baby gets comfortable with the whole process of massaging.
Before beginning the massage, make sure the oil, fresh cloths, diapers, towels, and tissues are handy. Switch off the TV, cellphone or any bright lights around, to ensure the environment is soothing. Let your baby rest on a soft towel on the couch, bed or floor.
Take half a teaspoon of oil onto your palms. Start by applying it on your baby’s feet and legs, squeezing the calves and thighs gently.
Slowly work your way up, and massage the stomach and chest in small circular motions. Continue till they enjoy it, while looking for any “time out cues.” These are when your baby stops having eye contact, or starts playing with its hands and feet, or arches the back.
Massaging is an experience in itself, as long as you do it for your baby. When a maid or your help does it, the benefits will not be promising enough!