Massaging your new baby can be one of the most rewarding things you can do for both your new addition and yourself. Baby’s First Touch states the benefits of the massage for baby include: gas/colic relief, improving their sleep, better bonding with parent and strengthening every system in their body (e.g. circulatory, nervous, musculoskeletal, immune, etc). The benefits of the massage for the parent include: improving understanding of infant’s cues/communication, establishing a deeper sense of bonding/attachment and it can help to relax a parent and give them more confidence in that they are equipped with a way to calm and soothe their infant. Here is a list of tips and techniques to get you started:
Set the Mood
Create an atmosphere that you would enjoy getting a massage in. Dim the lights, play a soft lullaby, ensure that the room is warm enough and establish a place that is both comfortable for you to give the massage (e.g. on your bed, floor with several blankets for cushion or atop baby’s changing table) and comfortable for your infant to receive the massage.
Oil vs. Lotion
All-natural, cold-pressed oils (e.g. grape seed, apricot, almond oils) are best for infant massage and can be purchased at your local health food store. A small patch test on your baby’s wrist will let you know within 24-48 hours if they will tolerate the oil well. Lotions are ok but make sure to avoid any with mineral oil in them as that can clog baby’s pores and is not safe for them to ingest. You will be massaging your infant’s hands so whichever product you choose, make sure it is safe to ingest.
*adapted from Baby’s First Touch
Undress your baby down to their diaper. Begin the massage at your baby’s head and face. Ensure that your baby is ready and willing for the massage at that moment by looking for eye contact, smooth body movement and no real fussiness. Use oil as needed as you move to other body parts, go slowly, use a gentle amount of pressure, talk and make good eye contact with your baby. Perform several repetitions of each stroke. If they begin to fuss, stop the massage, tend to their needs and then decide if it is appropriate to continue with the massage.
Face- Do not use oil on this part of the body
Gently massage your baby’s scalp with small, round movement of the pads of your fingers. Pay attention to avoid their soft spots located at the top and towards the back of their head.
Smooth your thumbs along your infant’s forehead down towards their temples.
Glide the pads of your thumbs along their cheeks.
Massage with small movements along their jaw and chin.
Chest and Arms
Smooth your hands from the center of your infant’s chest out towards their shoulders.
Stroke slowly from your baby’s shoulder towards their hand with gentle, gliding strokes that encompass their entire arm.
Massage into the palm of your baby’s hand with the pad of your thumb.
Roll each of your baby’s fingers between your first finger and thumb.
Reverse the direction of your strokes to go from your infant’s hand towards their shoulder, again, encompassing their entire arm.
Repeat above massage sequence on their other arm.
Gently stroke down, with the palm of your hand, your infant’s stomach from above their belly button to about 1-2 inches below it.
Using the pads of your fingers, massage in a clockwise fashion around their belly button.
Push your baby’s knees in towards their chest and hold for a few seconds. Release and repeat a few times.
Stroke slowly from your baby’s hip to their foot, with gentle gliding strokes that encompass their entire leg.
Smooth your hand on the bottom of their foot, stroking from their heel towards their toes.
Roll each of your baby’s toes between your first finger and thumb.
Reverse the direction of your strokes to go from the top of their foot towards their hip, again, encompassing their entire leg.
Repeat above massage sequence on their other leg.
Back- can be done with baby on belly or against your chest/on your shoulder
Stroke down your infant’s back from the tops of their shoulders, down their back and along the back of their legs.
Move the pads of your fingers in circles around their back (be careful not to press over their spine).
At the conclusion of the massage, wrap your baby up in a blanket and snuggle. Enjoy the blissful state both you and he or she is in. Try this routine everyday, especially before bedtime, after your infant’s bath. This is a wonderful way to help soothe, comfort and bond with your baby.
Infant massage classes are a great way to learn more techniques and meet other parents. Check out www.lovingtouch.com for classes and instructors in your area.
Please note- This article in no way is meant to provide any sort of medical treatment or advice. Please seek out the advice of your child’s physician before beginning any programs and for any sort of medical advisement. Author is Certified Infant Massage Instructor with the International Loving Touch Foundation.
Moore, Diana Baby’s First Touch 2007