Massaging a newborn baby well into his early years has been a common practice in the quintessential Indian household since time immemorial. And why not? A gentle and thorough body rub is just as therapeutic for babies as it is for adults. Quite obviously, babies are much more fragile, so the rules are a little different, and as parents and caretakers it is beyond important for us to be a little extra careful. To help you out with some crucial aspects, we’ve curated a helpful list of dos and donts!
Pick the right kind of oil
While there’s no hard and fast rule that makes use of oils mandatory for massage, using oil just makes it easier for you to glide your hands, and can also make your baby’s skin supple. However, it is extremely crucial that you choose the right baby oil. Pick an oil that’s unscented and edible as it’s easily digested and isn’t harmful when your baby ingests it while sucking his hands or fingers. Some of the best oils for baby massage are coconut, canola, olive, apricot, avocado or safflower. However, before you start applying any oil to your baby, make sure you do a patch test on his/her skin to check for sensitivity first.
Pick a comfortable area
The place needs to be comfortable for the baby as well as you. If you’re uncomfortable, so will the baby. The room shouldn’t be too warm or too cold. Place the baby in supine position either on a comforter or changing table in your bedroom. Avoid the bathroom, as it is not only a slippery area, but also not ergonomic for massaging the baby and relatively colder than the bedroom or the living room.
Wash off all the oil entirely
When you bathe the baby post massage, make sure you wash off all the oil entirely. Residual oil can not only clog the pores, but also cause allergies and allow dust and grime to stick your baby’s skin.
Listen and look at your baby
Massaging can, and should, be a fun time for you as well as your baby. So put on some soothing music, sing and talk to your baby, and closely watch your baby’s reactions to the pressure you’re applying and the areas you’re massaging. This will help you fine tune your technique to yield the best results as well as create an atmosphere that will instantly soothe your little one.
Learn some massaging strokes for an effective session
A few simple tricks can go a long way in giving your baby the most wholesome massage. Apply just the right amount of pressure. If you’re massaging the baby in the morning and need him to wake up and become active, gently stroke towards the heart, from the wrist to the shoulder. If you’re massaging towards the end of the day, and want your baby to snooze in peace, then gently stroke away from the heart, from the shoulder to the wrist. If you want one where the baby is relaxed yet fully awake, you can try a combo of these two techniques.
Massage immediately before or after breastfeeding
Massaging immediately before or after breastfeeding will lead to nausea and indigestion for the baby. Ideally, you should leave a gap of 30 minutes between massaging and feeding, and make sure the baby has burped!
Apply too much pressure
As mentioned earlier, the key to a good massage is to apply just the right amount of pressure – to be gentle yet firm. Applying too much pressure will not only hurt your baby but also make him not look forward to massages in the future. Use the palm of your hand and your fingertips and apply slight pressure in circular motions.
Let the oil go into the baby’s eyes, nose or ears
Although the best massage oils are the safe and edible ones, you should still make sure that the oil doesn’t enter the baby’s eyes, nose and ears, as these may cause irritation, itching and allergies.
Massage the baby when he has a fever or cold
Massaging the baby means keeping the baby naked in the open for a good length of time. If the baby has a fever or cold, exposure to air as well as the mandatory bath that will follow, may further aggravate the illness and end up doing more harm than good.
Continue if your baby is not up for it
Massage is supposed to be calming and peaceful. If your baby is showing the opposite reaction, you may be doing something wrong. If the baby starts crying or yelling, it might be wise to just stop, and continue when the baby is in the mood for it. Sometimes, you don’t have to massage the whole body. Sometimes, a thorough back rub or leg massage is just enough. Pay attention to your baby’s cues, and continue for only as long as he is enjoying it.
At its most basic level, a good massage should calm your baby as well as serve as an exercise for you to bond with your baby. So keep an open mind and constantly improvise on making this the best experience for your little wonder.