As the benefits of baby massage are becoming more well-known in the West, in countries such as Africa and India, baby massage has been an essential part of maternal practice for centuries.
As one of the five senses, touch is extremely important to newborn babies. In fact, skin-to-skin contact is so important physiologically for the baby that ‘kangaroo-care’ (the practice of putting naked premature babies on the chest of the mother under a blanket) has proven successful in decreasing mortality rates, helping oxygenation levels and even helping with newborn weight gain.
Baby massage provides this essential skin-to-skin contact, strengthening bonding as you spend quality time gently and lovingly touching your baby; as well as helping with brain development as you stimulate the baby, thereby making her aware of new sensations and developing a growing awareness of different parts of her body.
Other benefits of baby massage are said to include:
- helping baby to sleep better
- helping to relieve colic and gas discomfort
- reducing stress hormones
- aiding digestion
- improving blood circulation
- improving immune function
- enchancing the development of the nervous system
how to do it
- Unfragranced, simple oils like almond oil or olive oil are good oils for baby massage, and has the added benefit of helping with any dry skin baby may have.
- Baby needs to be undressed and lying on a towel in a warm room.
- Warm your hands up first and rub the oil (or lotion) between your hands to warm it before touching baby.
- Soft music is a calming background option.
- Hum or sing to your baby – no matter what your singing voice is like – your baby prefers to hear your voice over any other and it will calm and relax her.
There is no right or wrong way to massage your baby – just follow your instincts and baby’s reactions.
Here are some techniques you could try:
- Alternate between a light stroking touch and a firmer stroke or squeeze.
- Blow on their feet and palms and all over their body.
- Massage in a clockwise movement over the stomach.
- Use light playful pinching actions over the buttocks.
- Use long, flowing strokes from head to toes.
- Gently massage the scalp.
- Start with whole body strokes, then end by focusing on smaller areas such as the hands and fingers, feet and toes.
- Gently squeeze the thighs and upper arms.
Most importantly of all, choose a time where there are no distractions so you can give your baby your undivided attention – smile, talk and give lots of essential eye contact. It’s not only baby who will feel relaxed and calm at the end of it. Enjoy.
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