Why and How To Massage Your Infant

Updated: May 1

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 high quality organic cold pressed vegetable oil (e.g.: coconut oil, sesame oil, almond oil, etc.)


Benefits of baby massage

Makes baby feel loved

Helps babies 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.


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: traditional ayurvedic scrub made of organic chickpea flour and spices.

Carol Jamault is a licensed massage therapist, registered yoga teacher, and a certified life/health coach who specializes in Ayurvedic treatments. Coming from a background in graphic design working for corporations, her work focus on supporting and guiding her clients to manage stress better and prevent or recover from burn-out. At vedaHEALTH, she provides Ayurvedic bodywork for Dr. Geary's patients, guides the Lunch Time Reset Yoga Nidra classes, leads some talks and contributes with articles to our blog. Carol's passion is to support others to live in alignment with their life purpose. She is the founder of Hridayam Ayurveda.

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