Baby Health

Vetted by J Rajesh, MBBS, MD (Ped.) on 28 Dec, 2021
Baby Health
Baby Massage: Boost Parental Bond and Muscles Together

Before your baby understands words, you express your love and comfort your little one through the touch. In addition to cuddling and gently stroking your baby, massage is a powerful way of connecting with your baby. In India and many other Asian countries, massaging babies is a tradition that is being followed since ancient times.

Does my baby need an oil massage?

In recent times, many researchers have confirmed the health benefits of baby massage, and this age-old Indian therapy has now gained widespread popularity. Massage can be started within 12 hours of your baby’s birth, although you can start after 2-3 weeks to let the routine set in with your recovery. You may introduce infant massage in your baby’s routine, considering the many benefits associated with it as follows:

  • Healthy growth
  • Weight gain in preterm infants
  • Stronger bones
  • Less fussiness, crying, and stress
  • Proper sleep
  • Smooth skin
  • Improved digestion and blood circulation
  • Improved absorption of nutrition
  • Provides warmth
  • Improves immunity
  • Improved neuromotor development such as coordination and balance

You’ll find that massaging your baby benefits you too. It makes you more confident in handling your baby, increases your awareness of your baby’s needs, and improves your sense of well-being as you bond with your baby. Massaging is also a great way for all family members to connect with the baby.

How do I massage my baby?

Once you adjust to your baby’s feeding and sleep routine, you start to look for ways to bond with your baby. Massaging your baby is the perfect opportunity to bond with your baby. If you are wondering how to handle your little one during a massage, talk to your pediatrician for guidance on appropriate infant massage techniques.

Although there are no fixed guidelines for massaging babies, the following method is well recommended:

  • Divide the oil massage into three phases. 
  • During the first phase, place the baby on their stomach and massage from the head, neck, shoulders to the buttocks. 
  • In the second phase, place the baby on the back and massage the face, cheeks, chest, abdomen, upper and lower limbs, palms, and soles. 
  • In the first two phases, massage every point with 12 strokes lasting 5 seconds each. 
  • In the third phase, perform gentle alternate bending and stretching movements of the arms and legs.

Few tips for baby massage:

  • Massage your baby in a warm room with soft lights and low noise levels.
  • Use lukewarm oil.
  • Massage your baby when the baby is calm, and talk or hum as you begin the massage
  • Position the baby on a towel spread on the floor or bed 
  • Before you begin, rub some oil between your palms near your baby’s ears. Your baby will become familiar with this sound and know to expect the massage.
  • Keep a gap of 45 minutes to an hour between feeding and massage.
  • Use low-moderate pressure while massaging.
  • You can take a break from the massage if your baby cries too much or pees or poops.
  • Avoid a massage if your baby is unwell.
  • You may massage your baby before the bath so that the oil is removed during the bath time.

Which oils can I use for baby massage?

There is little evidence that says which oil is the best. However, cold-pressed oils, which have fewer impurities, are preferred. Studies show that natural oils extracted from coconut, sunflower, and safflower are less allergic than artificial oils. Sesame oil is seen to have antibacterial properties. It is better to test a small amount of oil on a tiny area of your baby’s skin to rule out allergies. Although mustard oil and olive oil are used for massage in some parts of India, some researchers have reported adverse reactions and discouraged the use of these oils for baby massage. Some babies may be allergic to nut oils such as peanut oil. Talk to your pediatrician if you notice an allergic rash. Depending on the safety and regional availability of oil preparations, you may choose an oil for your baby’s massage. Occasionally, turmeric, garlic, or fenugreek may be added to the oil.

Should a daya (dai) massage my baby?

Usually, the elderly women in the home, like the baby’s grandmother, are seen to massage the baby. In many Indian households, a dai may be hired for baby massage. However, studies show that mothers can deliver massage just as effectively as trained professionals. Moreover, it would be a great way for you to connect with your baby.

Gentle massage combined with stretching and moderate pressure during baby massage can work wonders for your little one. Enjoy massaging your baby and make your bond stronger!