At the core, parenting is all about creating a soothing and healthy environment in which your newborn baby knows how loved they are. While touching and caressing your baby may come naturally to you, learning the art of baby massage may not be something you’ve fully considered. Yet, it’s one of the most important and natural things we can do to build a strong bond and loving foundation and help our children develop both physically and emotionally.
The health benefits of physical touch certainly apply to your baby, and massaging your baby is a fantastic way to provide these health benefits to your baby on a regular basis.
In India and other Eastern countries, baby massage is considered one of the most important aspects of baby rearing. In fact, in these countries, many families are hiring “Ammas” which are women who come to the house to perform massages on their children.
Can a baby massage be done at home safely and effectively? With the right tools, which we’ll discuss in this article, the answer is yes. Learning baby massage is not as complicated as many parents might think. You’ll naturally be gentle because it’s your baby, and in this day and age, gentle baby massage tools with safety clearance are available on the market.
Simple baby massage techniques will help your baby relax, and will have innumerable benefits for both baby and parent.
The Science Behind the Baby Massage
If you’re looking for a simple and safe technique to introduce into your routine to help your baby calm down, relax, and sleep better— look no further than baby massage.
Elina Furman is the Founder and CEO of Kahlmi, the first baby massage tool and educational platform to help promote the mission of baby massage. As a certified infant massage instructor and baby product expert, she is excited to spread awareness of the scientific evidence-based benefits of massage for a baby or child.
Furman explains, “When a baby is massaged, you are actually stimulating their central nervous system, building muscle tone, and allowing them to release serotonin that helps form vital connections with you, themselves and the world around them.”
Research conducted by Dr. Tiffany Fields, Director of Touch Research Institute, showed that infant massage can often have these benefits, among many other benefits.
Other benefits of baby massage include:
- Lower heart rate
- Lower blood pressure
- Increases in positive hormones
- Improved immunity
- Psychosocial development
- Encourages attachment and bonding with parents
- Growth and weight gain
- Improved sleep (including helping your baby fall asleep)
- Growth and weight gain (which is especially important for babies born premature.)
Johnson & Johnson recently released a report on baby massage entitled The Brain-Boosting Secret Every Parent of a Baby Should Know which explained, “The power of touch—from putting on lotion before bedtime or snuggling after a bath—can potentially provide infants with physical, emotional and cognitive benefits.”
The Kahlmi baby massager is a great tool to use to start massaging your baby safely. Any adult who regularly gets massage therapy knows how beneficial massage can be. Now you might be realizing that your baby can also benefit from massage.
Prepping for the Massage
When it comes to baby massage, mastering the prep is just as important as learning the basic massage strokes.
You will want to massage your newborn at a time when they are alert but aren’t irritable or fussy.
If your baby is hungry, crying, or fussy for any reason, massaging them will not actually calm them down. It may overstimulate them, causing them to be more distressed.
This means that you don’t want to massage your baby when they’re already distressed.
In addition, before you decide to give your baby a little massage, make sure that you yourself are also calm. If you are feeling particularly stressed or frazzled, you’re not in the right state to be using the baby massage tool on your baby.
If you and your baby are both feeling calm and alert, then you can take the next steps to prep for a soothing and bonding baby massage:
- Remove any jewelry and wash your hands.
- Dim the lights and put on soft music.
- Place your baby on a blanket on the floor, bed, or on their changing station.
- Verbally engage with your newborn and ask their permission to give them a gentle massage with the baby massage tool. If they are smiling and making eye contact, the answer is, “Yes.” If they are scrunching their face and arching back, your infant may be trying to say, “No”, and you may want to find another time for a massage.
- Have safe plant-seed massage oil on hand, such as coconut , sesame, or grapeseed oil.
Learning the Basics of Baby Massage
When it comes to massaging your newborn, be sure that you are using gentle strokes with the Kahlmi massage tool, and not applying too much pressure. But don’t make the mistake of having too light of a touch either, as that can make the baby feel ticklish. A nice gentle pressure should work fine.
Arms and Leg Massage: For your newborn’s arms, stabilize your baby with one hand, and then use the opposite hand to lightly glide from shoulder to hand. Do this 3 times, and then switch arms. You will do the same steps for the legs, going from thigh to feet. Always massage in the direction away from the heart as this stroke is less stimulating for the baby.
Belly Massage: Place your hand flat against the baby’s belly button. Rub their belly in small clockwise circles, applying gentle but firm pressure. Try to stay away from the belly button area, especially in babies under 1 month.
Back Massage: After massaging the arms, legs, and belly, you can turn your newborn around onto their bellies. This is a great opportunity for tummy time. You can gently rub their back using the same circular motion as you did for their bellies.
Face Massage: After you have massaged their back, place your newborn gently back onto their back. You can then place both hands (or an approved baby massage tool like Kahlmi) gently on your child’s forehead and trace down to their chin. Repeat several times. Avoid the eyes, nose and mouth.
Be sure to remain calm throughout the massage and use songs and conversation to connect with your newborn.
Now that you know the best methods for baby massage, you’ll want to practice once a day and work up to two massages per day.
Baby massages don’t have to be long to be effective. Even 5-10 minutes per day is a wonderful way to release tension for both you and baby and to enhance your bond. It will also help soothe and relax your baby so that their sleep improves and they can maintain optimal health.
Baby massage unlocks a wonderfully loving and relaxing environment for both you and baby, and will help you to enjoy those precious moments with them and establish a lifelong connection.
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- Johnson & Johnson, The Brain-Boosting Secret Every Parent of a Baby Should Know: https://www.jnj.com/health-and-wellness/the-brain-boosting-secret-every-parent-of-a-baby-should-know-massage
- Massaging Your Baby to Sleep: https://www.romper.com/p/heres-how-you-can-massage-your-baby-to-sleep-29788723.
- Massage Therapy Facilitates Weight Gain in Preterm Infants by Tiffany Field et. al. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1111/1467-8721.00113