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Indian Style Newborn Baby Massage: Uses, How To, When To

Growth & Development / Last Updated on Jul 03, 2023 / Vetted by Dr. Rukaiya Mithaiwala (PT)
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Indian Style Newborn Baby Massage: Uses, How To, When To

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.

Is Indian style baby massage good for babies?

Indian style baby massage is a traditional practice of many households in India. Scientific studies have proven this style of massage to have positive benefits on a baby's physical growth and development. As this massage technique facilitates bonding between the child and the caregiver, it enhances the emotional development of the baby as well as alleviates stress and anxiety of the caregiver. The baby feels calm and relaxed post the massage session promoting better sleep.
Digestive issues such as colic, gas and constipation that are common in newborns can be alleviated with certain massage techniques. Research indicates that the touch stimulus sparks certain neurons in the brain and may also assist in the child's cognitive development. This is a gentle and nurturing form of interaction with a newborn and rarely has any negative effects.

Benefits of Indian style newborn baby massage

Indian style baby massage can provide many benefits for newborns. Here are some of them:
  • Massage helps to improve the primary social and listening skills of the baby. This can be through eye contact, poems, songs or even talking to the baby accompanied with the soothing touch during the massage sessions. Some studies also show that this engagement with the child also helps increase the feeling of attachment and care for the parents also helps in relieving stress and anxiety of the caregivers.
  • By using different strokes, massage techniques improve the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the body's cells, which may help the baby's breathing pattern and respiratory health.
  • Massage can increase blood circulation and stimulate the lymphatic system. This may boost the baby's immune system and reduce the frequency of illness and infection
  • Regular massage may also help with weight gain through release of growth hormone along with various other hormones.
  • Due to the gentle stroke and rhythmic movements of the massage, the baby may feel more calm and relaxed which may lead to better quality and duration of sleep.
  • Massaging over the tummy can provide relief from gas, colic, and constipation.
  • Regular massage can improve muscle tone and lead to better muscle flexibility and coordination along with increased body awareness.
  • Stimulation of the face and mouth helps to the awareness of the oral motor muscles which is needed for the development of chewing, swallowing and speech.
  • Massage may help to improve cognitive function as it enhances body and spatial awareness, cause and effect of body movements, and increases attention span.

How to massage a newborn baby in Indian style

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

When to massage a newborn baby

It is important to perform massage techniques for newborns with care. You can begin Dry massage from the first day itself. Since Indian style newborn massage involves the use of oils, it is recommended to wait for at least ten days to two weeks for the baby's skin barrier to be fully developed.
It is also advisable to wait for the umbilical stump to dry up and fall before starting massage to avoid risk of infection. For a premature baby, it is necessary to consult your doctor before starting any new techniques.

In conclusion, Indian style newborn baby massage provides several benefits to the baby as well as the caregivers. If accurate techniques of massage are followed along with the use of suitable products this is a great technique to contribute to the overall emotional and physical development of your baby.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How often do you perform an Indian style massage for a newborn?

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.

2. Which baby massage oil is good for babies?

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

3. When to stop Indian style baby massage?

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.

4. Who should massage a newborn baby?

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.

Dr. Rukaiya Mithaiwala (PT)

Education: BPT, MPT (Pediatrics), Yoga Alliance Certified Kids Yoga Teacher, Certification in Autism Intervention
Dr Rukaiya Mithaiwala (PT) is a physiotherapist specialising in the field of Pediatrics. Post her Masters degree, she has worked for over 5 years, with children with developmental concerns. Using her background in the field of healthcare, Dr Rukaiya aims to create evidence-based informative content around child health and early development. She aspires to equip parents and caregivers with the... more

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