A few years before I had my first child I read, ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy. It is a great book and through it I was introduced to baby massage. The way the author described the Indian practice ran deep, so when I had Dylan, it became part of our bathing ritual, I am so happy that it did. It is one of my favorite memories that I have. The great joy I got from nurturing, and bonding with my new baby, massaging his tiny perfect little body in my lap was truly beautiful and will be with me forever. I still massage my boys from time to time, especially if they are feeling unwell and am now just blown away at how big their bodies are getting.- Editor
Bond with your baby through the use of an age old tradition: infant massage. Through touch, an infant’s first form of communication, you can enhance your expression of love, respect and caring to aid in the bonding process with your new baby. Infant massage can promote the growth and development of a baby’s body, mind and spirit. The stimulation an infant receives from massage can aid circulation, strengthen muscles, help digestion, boost immune system, increase brain development, and bring relief to sleep and respiratory difficulties.
The tradition of massaging infants dates back thousands of years, particularly in Asian and Pacific Island cultures. Among the Maoris and Hawaiians, massage was a component of the baby’s regular bath routine.
Getting started can be as simple as providing a few strokes during bath time or a diaper change. If using lotions or oils, take care to ensure their safety on your baby’s delicate skin. Use vegetable oils rather than mineral oils (which can clog the pores), and warm the oil in your hands before applying it.
Initiate by asking permission to start the massage, making eye contact with your baby and asking out loud, “Would you like a massage?” Then, let them know you’re going to massage them, showing your hands- the tools you will be using.
It is less intimidating and invasive for your baby if you start by massaging her legs and feet. Using gentle, light strokes (though avoid being so light it will tickle), move from the center of the body outward, i.e., go from upper leg to foot or shoulder to hand. There are no set numbers of strokes or repetitions so remember to take your time and enjoy! Throughout the experience, look for cues from your baby as you massage. She will give you signals to let you know if she is enjoying the massage and when massage time is over.
In addition to the basics, you can try specific strokes to see if your little one likes them. In the “twist and squeeze” stroke, gently alternate squeezing and twisting along the thigh and calf muscles. Or try a “rolling” massage. While he is lying in front of you on his back, begin with his hip or shoulder and “roll” the limb, gently rocking it back and forth between your two hands, moving your way down to the wrist or ankle.
Beyond the simplicity of the baby massage, you are facilitating their healthy growth and development in ways beyond the imagination. Infant massage is not just about the strokes – it’s about building a healthy relationship between you and your loved one. If you would like to learn more, I give a playful hands-on instruction to infant massage. You will learn all the techniques you’ll need to calm and bond with your baby, while also discovering the amazing healing benefits of essential oils on your lil’ ones. Please contact me if you would like to learn more.
Image Credit: Joanna Tano Photography