Why and how to massage your Infant

Updated: Apr 3

Why massage your baby?

Massage is a beautiful way to communicate love between parent and child. Is about being in touch physically and emotionally. Through this article you will be instructed on how to perform baby massage to your little one through sessions designed to be a nurturing and restful time for the family.

When to start?

Shantala (indian traditional baby massage) can be started from the 4th week and become a routine until your baby start to turn over by herself (around 4th month) or as long as your baby allows you to keep going. In general, as they grow up and become more moveable they will not stay still too long. Morning time is recommended and the massage should be performed with a slightly warmed high quality organic cold pressed vegetable oil (e.g.: coconut oil, sesame oil, almond oil, etc.)

The benefits of baby massage

  • Makes your baby feel loved

  • Helps your baby to develop self-confidence and self-esteem

  • Helps babies to develop increased self-awareness of their bodies

  • Helps babies to eventually learn faster how to roll up and crawl

  • Helps digestion and reduces gases

  • Massaged babies usually cry less and are less prone to illness

  • Massage improves muscle tone and makes joints more flexible

  • Massage improves sleeping patterns, calms and relaxes

Precautions and contraindications

  • Do not massage when the baby is sleeping

  • Do not massage when the baby just had been fed (wait 30 minutes)

  • Do not massage when the baby express any resistance to the touch (usually expressed with cry and/or discomfort)

  • Do not massage if your baby has fever or cold

  • Do not massage areas of bruises, swelling or open wounds

  • Do not use essential oils! Also do not use synthetic/mineral oils

  • Do not massage for 3 days after vaccination

  • In newborns wait for navel to heal. Do not massage in cases of jaundice

  • Do not massage a baby with cancer. Check first with a medical Doctor


If you have any concerns and doubts, consult your pediatrician to know if a massage is ok for your baby. If you wish to find a pediatrician with an integrative approach to health, I recommend Dr. Natalie Geary at VedaHealth.

What you & your baby will need?

  • Massage oil and ubtan (optional)

  • Little bowl for the massage oil

  • Towel for the baby

  • Yoga mat if available (or another towel for mom)

The environment for baby massage

  • The room needs to be warm (80 F/26 C), the baby should not feel cold (during warm days, can be practiced outdoors);

  • Best performed with the baby naked or wearing only diapers

  • Baby should not be on empty stomach

  • Massage should be done in the morning

  • Massage could be repeated in the evening before sleep

  • Massage should be followed from a bath to complete the relaxation effect

Your posture during the massage

  • Wear comfortable clothes (e.g.: t-shirt & loosen pants, prefer cotton over synthetic materials)

  • Take your shoes off

  • Wash your hands

  • Take of any jewels, watch, etc

  • Seat on the floor in a comfortable position (with legs extended in front of the body or crossed legs)

  • Always remember to keep your back straight and shoulders relaxed

  • Be aware of your breath (should be relaxed and deep)

The choice of the massage oil

Be sure that the massage oil is vegetable, organic, preferably cold-pressed and suitable for your baby skin. Avoid the use of mineral oils and the use of any product formulated with chemical ingredients (artificial colors, preservatives and/or fragrances). If the list of ingredients shows words that you cannot read and/or understand, chose another brand!

Be aware and always observe the skin reactions and check for allergies.

“About 90% of food allergies are to eight foods: cow’s milk, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs and fish. Please be aware that any child can be allergic to any food, even if there is no family history of food allergy.” — Ruth Yaron, Super Baby Food

As “skin eats”, this affirmation is also valid to everything we apply to our skin.

Another important thing to be aware is the presence of chemicals (fragrances, colorants, preservatives, etc.) and other pollutants.

Warnings

Never use any essential oils (diluted or undiluted to the skin, either yours or specially your baby skin, without the advice of a specialist. Some essential oils can be very concentrate and toxic! Very important note: clean your baby with a towel after massage as the oil can make the body slippery.

Step-by-step

This step-by-step is a memo guideline to help you remember the sequence and strokes. Forget your expectations on what the session should be. Every session will be different (the moods, the moment, the environment… will all influence the dynamic between giver and receiver (e.g.: if the room is not warm enough, if baby is tired or hungry, if giver is anxious, stressed, tired, not focused). Check for baby cues before starting (through eye contact).

1. Welcome your baby (grounding). Head and shoulders intro

2. Chest (“open book”, “crossed movements”)

3. Arms, wrist & hands (round and flat movements)

4. Belly

5. Legs, ankles and feet (round and flat movements)

6. Back (“hand over hand”, “hand after hand”)

7. Face

8. Closing postures (crossed arms; leg and arm gentle stretch; lotus pose)

Use the palms of your hands in slow, firm, continuous movements. Use relatively stronger pressure towards the heart and lighter pressure on the opposite direction.

Be present!

Do not stress. Empty your mind.

Take a few deep breaths. Focus on the present moment.

Focus on your intention. Be connected. Take your time to find an easy rhythm.

Talk to your baby through your eyes and hands.

When you feel calm, your baby tends to feel calm too.

The massage session will take anything between 5 to 20 minutes (or more), depending on the baby’s mood/moment and environment. This is normal.

Bibliography:

Alan Heath & Nicki Bainbridge. Baby Massage, the calming power of touch. Dorling Kindersley. New York, 2004

Françoise Barbira Freedman. Yoga for mother and baby. Cico Books. London, 2010.

Frédérick Leboyer. Shantala, un art traditionnel. Le massage des enfants. Seuil. Paris, 1976.

Kiran Vyas, Danielle Belforti, Sandrine Testas-Lemasson. Le Massage des bébés selon la tradition ayurvédique. Marabout. Paris, 2005.

Ruth Yaron. Super Baby Food. F.J. Robert Holdings, LLC. Peckville, 2013.

[1] Massage oil (check article on massage oils)

[2] Ubtan is a traditional ayurvedic scrub made of organic chickpea flour and spices.


About the Author: Carol Jamault is a Certified Health & Life Coach, Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), and Registered Yoga Instructor (RYT-200) with a solid background in design and branding. She supports her clients in stress management and self-care through an integrative approach to wellness by providing bodywork services, consultations, and curated information and products to restore balance, improve individual wellness, and to boost vitality. Carol has been studying alternative healing, ethnobotany, circadian medicine, and Ayurveda since 2001. She is the founder of Hridayam Bodywork & Apothecary.

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