Massages are loved by everyone. When we think of Sunday we automatically think of a head massage and even a body massage. Massages are stress relieving for us but for newborns massages are much more than that. In India massaging of newborns and infants is a traditional way of strengthening them while their bones are still soft and their body needs nutrition in all possible ways. Traditional Indian massage of newborns offers various benefits like relieving them of stomachache and diarrhea; improving their blood circulation and brain development, etc. In this article we will see how traditional massages are done for newborns and infants and how they are beneficial for them.
Oil massage of newborns and infants has been done for many hundred years in India. It is still done in almost all parts and cultures of India as a compulsory practice. In fact, both the baby and the mother are massaged for one month after birth and then the mother’s massage is discontinued after some time, while the baby’s massage is done until it starts walking. Massage has many benefits and it is done with care and caution for babies. It is exceptionally beneficial for babies who are born preterm i.e. before the completion of nine months of pregnancy. The oil used for the infant massage is carefully chosen which should not cause any irritation or allergic reaction.
Massage of the infant is an ancient practice which has scientific reasons behind it. These reasons are now backed by science. The most important one is that massage builds the immunity of the infant. Regular massage of the baby instantly increases the circulation of blood in the whole body. The blood is composed of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. During massage with special oils the activity of white blood cells is increased. White blood cells are responsible for the natural immune mechanism of the body. The massage given to both the mother and the baby increases the immunity of both of them because lactation also improves immunity.
Other Benefits of Baby Massage
- Massage eases the teething process.
- Massage relieves baby’s pain associated with gas.
- Massage improves the growth of the baby.
- Massage prevents infections on the skin.
- Massage prevents rashes.
- Massage strengthens the bones and the muscles.
- Massage strengthens the baby’s joints.
- Massage activates pressure points on the baby’s body.
- Massage improves temperature regulations.
- Massage improves bonding between the baby and the mother.
- Massage nourishes the glands of the baby’s skin.
- Massage allows essential oils into the skin of the baby via pores.
- Massage increases the weight of thin babies.
- Massage reduces the weight of fat babies.
- Massage with natural oils controls growth of microbes on the body.
- Massages with synthetic oils are generally safe on the baby’s skin and do not cause irritation.
- Massage improves nerve function of infants and develops their nervous system.
- Massage infused with ayurvedic herbs is extremely beneficial for enhancing growth in babies.
- Massage prevents dermatitis and irritant reactions.
How to Do Baby’s Massage
It is important to follow a certain method while giving your infant a massage so that a pattern is developed. Begin by preparing the oil that you would choose to use for your baby. It can be any plain natural oil, like coconut oil or olive oil, or it can also be a specially prepared oil such as herbal or light synthetic oils specially formulated for infants. Always do a little test to find if the oil you are using causes a reaction on your baby’s skin.
- Start at the feet. Take a small amount of oil in your hand and then take the baby’s foot in your hands and begin pressing the heel. Slowly, move your fingers in swift motions towards the thighs. Take care not to hurt the knee while doing so. Then do this in the opposite direction. After this, rub the sole of the foot gently and apply pressure with the thumbs. Then repeat these steps on the other leg. Take time to press each muscle of the legs and the feet.
- After the legs, massage the arms. Take more oil in your palms and apply it on the whole arm. Then press and glide over each part of the arm. Give extra pressure on the hands.
- Now with just your palms apply oil on the baby’s abdomen. Begin at the shoulders and then massage the chest gently. Move your hands very lightly on the baby’s chest and stomach. Using a downward motion massage the abdomen for another minute.
- After the abdomen, massage the back in a similar way. Start at the shoulders and slowly move towards the hips.
- At the end, massage the head and the neck while the baby is still lying.
- You can repeat the whole process with a little more oil and this time a little more pressure.
Other Tips on Baby’s Massage
Here are a few more tips to guide you through the infant massage
- Schedule the massage at the same time every day.
- Give the massage enough time and do not begin it if there are other tasks pending for you.
- Do not massage when the baby has just had milk or food because it may make him spit out the meal.
- Try to use oil that you could also use for cooking. Babies can put anything into their mouth, including their hands or even feet.
- Give the baby a sun bath in winters during massage sessions.
- If the baby is trying to indicate something, try to understand it. The baby may like a specific movement of your hands on its body or it may also have pain somewhere. Understand all signals conveyed by the baby via sounds, limb movements, neck movements and hand expression.
- Be gentle throughout the practice
Massage has deeper benefits than the physical body. This is the reason why newborn massage is a ritual in India. It is accompanied by a new mom’s massage. It provides both of them with essential strength and also improves their health by preventing various diseases. Oils are carefully chosen for the infant and his mother because this phase is equally important for both of them. Massage provides unexpected benefits and we suggest that this traditional newborn and infant massage should be continued even if all other customs and traditions are dropped.