Infant Massage Techniques That You Can Do

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Oct 15, 2014

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Giving your baby a massage is both soothing and relaxing for you and offers a unique way to communicate with your baby through touch. There are numerous benefits of infant massage for your baby, including encouraging your baby’s growth and development, helping with digestion, easing constipation and colic and improving your baby’s sleep patterns.

Before you begin baby massage

– Choose a place that is warm and draft-free where you can sit on the floor or a bed with the baby in front of you on a padded pillow or blanket. 
 Ensure that you are in a comfortable position taking care of your posture so as not to damage your back.

– Make sure your hands are clean and warm, remove jewellery and be sure to rub in a way that your nails don’t scratch your baby’s skin.

– Only use cold-pressed, natural, unscented oil, such as organic sunflower oil or fractionated coconut. Refrain from using mineral oil, which clogs the pores, and nut oils, in case of allergies. . If you are not prepared to use the oil as a salad dressing, do not use it on your baby’s skin!

– Maintain eye contact and observe your baby’s body language. Since your baby cannot communicate through language, it is also important to pay particular attention to your baby’s cues during a massage. Positive cues may include eye contact, smiling, looking at the your face, and smooth movements of the arms and/or legs. Negative cues may include pulling away, crying, turning the head away, arching the back, and flailing movements of the arms and/or legs.

– Stop if your baby cries. You cannot force your baby to relax. Try again when your baby is more receptive.

Unlike adults, who tend to prefer at least an hour-long massage, a typical infant massage session takes about 20 minutes. It is almost impossible to engage a baby for longer than that. If your baby does engage for more than 20 minutes, by all means, continue the massage!

Infant massage techniques

1. Resting Hands: Place both hands on your baby and allow your hands to go heavy and relax.

Benefits: Helps mum and baby relax, Asks baby’s permission
Allows baby to get used to sensations of resting hands.

2. Velvet Cloak – Place both hands on your baby’s chest and slide both hands all the way down the front of body. Replace one hand at a time to the chest and repeat 6-8 times.

Benefits: Lets both baby and parent get used to feel of the massage Lets baby know massage is beginning; encourages a full body stretch.

3. Warming Heart – Circle outwards on the chest with the pads of 2 or 3 fingers.

Benefits: Opens chest area and increases breathing capacity; tones chest muscles; may help release mucus on the chest.

4. Stretch a Leg – Make a C shape with your hand, pull your hand all the way down each leg, from the top of the leg to the ankle. Repeat on other leg.

Benefits: Encourages circulation and muscle development in the legs.

5. Souls of the Feet – Run your thumb up the soles of feet .

Benefits: Involves vagus nerve which is linked to many organs.

6. Open Shut Them – Hold each hand and then bring each arm across the chest and open out to side.

Benefits: Encourages movement, stretching and rolling and increased body awareness.

7. A Self Cuddle – Bring both arms across the chest together and open out to the sides.

Benefits: Encourages movement, stretching and rolling and increased body awareness.

8. Arms Length – Make a C shape with your hand and pull your hand from your baby’s shoulder to wrist. An alternative if baby does not like it: hold wrist and stroke down arm.

Benefits: Encourages circulation and muscle development in the arms.

9. Full Back Stretch – Bring your hands all the way down either side of your baby’s spine.

Benefits: Stretches out back; increases circulation; tones muscles.

10. Shampoo – Using the pads of your finger, gentle circles over your baby’s scalp.

Benefits: Encourages circulation to the head; is calming and relaxing.

11. Open Book – Spread your thumbs out across your baby’s forehead to temples.

Benefits: Helps drain and loosen mucus in the sinuses.

12. Gum Soother – Massage along your baby’s gum line with the pads of your fingers.

Benefits: Soothes teething pains.

13. Velvet Cloak to end.

I often get asked “When is a good time to massage my baby?” Because baby massage is relaxing and soothing, many parents massage as part of the bed time or a pre-nap routine. Provided your baby is well rested, alert and happy, any time is a good time for massage.However, there may be times when it is best not to massage your baby.

When not to try baby massage

– Don’t wake your baby for massage.
– Never force movements or go against your baby’s will. Stop if she is not enjoying it.
– Do not massage a hungry or full baby.
– After immunisations, wait 24 hours. If your baby seems well, you can massage, but avoid the injection site for the first week.
– Don’t massage your baby if he is unwell – he won’t want the massage anyway.
– Recently bruised or broken skin should not be massaged.
– If your baby is having medical treatment or has any special needs, check with your paediatrician about the massage before starting.
– In general, watch and listen to your baby. She will tell you if they want you to stop. If in doubt, stop and cuddle your baby before continuing.

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Written By Keshinee Shah

Ms. Keshinee Shah is an international lawyer and management consultant, with 20 years of first aid experience. She is a first aid instructor and has been conducting training in first aid under Emergency First Response for parents, students, care-givers and professionals, both in India and the UK, since 2011. Keshinee also holds a Diploma in Infant Massage from the UK.

See all articles by Keshinee

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