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Being a new parent brings in so much joy and with it so many new decisions about what is best for your baby. Massaging your baby is one thing you may be immediately advised to do by so many family members and would have probably made you wonder how beneficial it can be. Indian-style newborn baby massage is a practice in which the baby is massaged from head to toe using oils.
Parents can make use of the activity of massaging to bond with their babies better. This in turn also promotes both their physical as well as emotional development. Read on to find out more about the benefits of infant massages and how to get started on this journey.
Let us discuss some of the basic steps to massage a newborn :
Warm the oil slightly in your hands before applying it to your baby's body.
Begin by massaging your baby's head with gentle circular motions. Make sure that you are gentle as the newborn’s skulls are very delicate and vulnerable. Stroke gently from the forehead outwards using your finger tips. Move on to your baby’s face and tap with your fingers gently. Apply light strokes on your baby’s cheeks, nose and chin and then lower towards the neck and shoulders.
Make vertical strokes from the shoulders downwards on the baby's arms to the wrists. Spread your babies hands to massage each finger individually and gently Make circles with your thumbs to massage their palms.
Massage the chest and tummy gently with gentle strokes and circular motions. If your baby is calm, turn them over and stroke their back. Long, slow strokes from the head to the toes are recommended.
Massage the legs by gently stroking downwards and kneading the muscles of the thighs, knees and calves.
End by massaging your baby's feet. Stroke from the heel to the toe and then work on each toe individually, spreading them out and giving each a gentle pull. Gently knead the soles of the feet using your thumbs.
After the massage wrap your baby in a warm towel or blanket and cuddle together for a few minutes to continue the bonding experience.
You can start the massage at the top of the body and work your way down or vice versa depending on your preference. Pay attention to your baby's responses and modify the massage accordingly and discontinue the massage if your baby seems uncomfortable.
Here is a reference video link demonstrating the steps to Indian style newborn baby massage
It's best to ease into massage by starting with shorter sessions (about 15 minutes) twice or thrice a week. As your child grows more at ease, you can gradually increase this. How often you massage your child is entirely up to you and your child.
The oils selected must be safe, gentle and preferably be natural and free of synthetic additives. Coconut, sesame, mustard, almond and olive oil are commonly used in India. Perform a patch test before using any oil on the baby's skin to ensure that your baby is not allergic
As your baby grows, their interest in massage may decrease, and adjustments to the routine may be necessary. Baby massage should be discontinued if the baby has a medical condition that affects their skin, muscle tone or overall health. Your child will get more active and independent as they grow up and may not enjoy massage as much hence the frequency of the massage can be modified accordingly.
In India, it is traditional for a Maalishwali or Daai to massage a baby, but inexperienced and untrained Maalishwalis may compromise hygiene or use improper techniques. Japas or trained-Maalishwalis specializing in baby massage are recommended, particularly in the post-delivery period when the mother is recuperating, as they maintain hygiene, know proper techniques, and provide information on bathing after massage. Medical professionals advise parents to massage the baby to bond and relax together, but caution against hiring a Maalishwali due to hygiene and safety concerns.
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