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All busy moms know the benefit of a relaxing massage, but not all know how much their baby can benefit from massage. Skin-to-skin contact is great for babies, making them calm and happy and encouraging growth. Tiffany Field, PhD, the director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine explained, “When you give your baby a massage, you’re actually stimulating her central nervous system. That sets off a chain reaction: It makes her brain produce more serotonin, a feel-good chemical, and less cortisol, a hormone that’s secreted in response to stress. As a result, your baby’s heart rate and breathing slow down, and she becomes more relaxed. ” Other than making your baby more relaxed and happy, the affectionate touch of massage will help you build an even stronger bond with your baby and encourage more interaction between the two of you. Massage will build your confidence when handling your child and make you more attune to your baby’s needs. It can also help your baby sleep better, sooth tummy aches, ease teething pains, and reduce crying. Baby massage is a great activity for both mother and child.
How to Massage your Baby
Make sure your baby is happy and alert before staring. Put your baby in a comfortable position on a soft blanket or towel, where they are warm and away from overhead lights. You should remove the baby’s diaper or at least loosen it.
Make sure to use a gentle, soft, circular rubbing motion throughout the massage. There are variations on the method and order of massage, but below I will describe a basic baby massage.
Start with the legs, as babies are less sensitive here and they are used to being touched here during diaper changes. Hold the baby’s heel in one hand and slowly stoke all the way down the thigh to the ankle, gently squeezing, then reverse this motion. Next, rub the feet with your thumbs. Follow these same strokes on the arms and hands. Then put your hands on the baby’s head and run your hands down both sides of his body. After, draw tiny circles on the baby’s head with your fingertips. Move on to the face and fold your hands in a prayer shape on your baby’s forehead, pushing gently out from the center. You can then use your thumb to stroke your baby’s face from one cheek to the other. Next, fold your hands on the baby’s chest and gently push out from the center. Then, move down to the tummy. Using your fingertips, gently rub in a clockwise motion, following the natural path of digestion, starting at your baby’s belly button. You can also move your fingertips from one side of the belly to the other on a diagonal. At the end you can turn your baby onto his belly and stroke his back up and down and from side to side.
- Make sure to be gentle and not apply too much pressure. As your baby grows you can apply a little more pressure, but always be very gentle.
- Always massage in one direction. The most common method in baby massage is to massage the skin away from the direction of the heart, which has a calming effect. You can also massage toward the heart, but this has a stimulating effect. Choose the direction of the massage with the time of day in mind.
- Pay attention to your baby’s cues and mood. If he frowns, cries, becomes upset, or falls asleep, it may not be the best time for a massage. It always easy to make a massage as long or short as you want.
- Massage oil is not required, but it is a nice touch. Make sure any oil you use is edible and unscented. Any fruit or vegetable oil will work and good choices include coconut, canola, corn, olive, grape seed, apricot, avocado, or safflower oils. Only use a little bit and avoid baby and mineral oil, which clog the pores. Nut oil should also be avoided because of the risk of allergies.
- Try to keep up a consistent routine and massage your baby in a similar way and around the same time everyday. Babies love routine and they will come to expect and enjoy being massaged. Massage can be a great part of a bedtime routine since it relaxes and quiets the baby.
- Do not massage your baby when he is hungry or too full. Babies wont enjoy a belly rub if there stomach is empty and if they are too full they will spit up their food.
- Do not tickle your baby while you massage him. A massage is supposed to be relaxing and tickling may over stimulate your baby.
- You can play soothing music in the background or talk and sing to your baby during the massage.
- Do not massage your baby if he has a rash and proceed with caution if your baby is sick.