Your Definitive Guide to Baby Massage
The practice of baby massage is an art in many cultures that has been passed on to generations. Researchers have discovered over 3000-year-old evidence of baby massage in countries as diverse as India and other Asian Countries, Africa, New Zealand, and the Caribbean. From the time of birth until the baby is weaned and walking, infant massage is still seen as a standard component of childcare in many nations.
So, if that little “but” in your head is stopping you from letting your baby have a massage, maybe it’s time for you to stop worrying, and believe in the age-old practice. Let’s let the little munchkin enjoy a pampering massage too, moms. We know that the small creature is really delicate and immensely soft, and you may be afraid to massage the body of your baby. But don’t worry. Routine massages shortly after birth help to develop the bond between you and your baby. With every stroke, your baby will feel loved and nurtured. Massage will also relax your baby and promote better sleep, and even healthy growth according to some studies.
Health Benefits of Baby Massage
Baby massage may aid to stimulate the circulatory and digestive systems, according to the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM). As a result, it is helpful for certain babies with illnesses like:
Massages can also aid with muscle tension, developing pains, and teething discomfort, as well as boost growth in preterm babies. However, the first thing you must do is consult your doctor before getting your baby a massage.
How Often to Perform Baby Massage
Firstly, according to the IAIM, touch should be introduced by the parents “As soon as the baby is born”. You can begin massaging your baby after a few weeks of birth. Now how often to do it completely depends on you and your baby. While some parents treat their little ones with massages twice a day, others go for alternate day messages.
You can massage your baby in the morning to get the day started or before bedtime to make your baby go asleep. Notice your baby’s cues and carefully devise the best massage routine for your child.
How to Perform Baby Massage?
While some mothers choose to perform the massage themselves on their babies, some hire a maalishwali. In some cases, a family member may also help with the massage. Either way is fine, your decisions depend on your preference, comfort, and lifestyle. Here are our tips that we will advise you to follow so that you can give your baby an effective massage.
1. Set the Mood: Dim the lights, turn off your phone, and, if desired, play some soothing music. Also, ensure that the room is warm.
2. Place Your Baby on a Soft Surface: Place your little one on a safe, comfortable surface like the bed, or even the floor with proper cushioning or layers of thick blankets.
3. Take Off Your Baby’s Clothes: Slowly undress the little one. Take out the diaper if you want. Let some air touch your baby’s body before you begin the massage. But if it's windy, or in winter, make sure you close the windows and keep your baby comfortably warm.
4. Gentle Strokes: Softly touch your baby. The strokes must be gentle and smooth because your baby is delicate. For infants, go for gentler, and soft strokes, while for toddlers, you can employ firm massaging strokes.
5. Massage the Right Body Parts: Start with the baby’s feet, and head towards the legs slowly massaging the shins and the thighs. Massage the arms and the hands. For the stomach, massage in a clockwise direction, the direction in which the digestive system of the baby moves. Massage the chest avoiding the delicate head and the neck. Turn your little one over, and massage the back.
6. Develop Your Bond: Talk sweetly to your child, sing a song, or try to communicate with your baby while massaging. Make eye contact with it and help your bond grow.
7. Stop When It’s Time: If the cute munchkin starts getting annoyed, stop and you can continue later, or even the next day. Generally, babies get annoyed during massages if they get hungry or bored or start feeling cold.
Tips For Baby Massage
Here are a few tips from us for you which may come in handy when you are massaging your little one’s soft body.
1. A Comfortable Environment: A quiet, warm place is essential. Don’t forget to place them on a soft, flat surface. Insert a towel if your baby is diaper-free.
2. Start Slow: Begin by gently touching your baby and rubbing its body parts before beginning the massage. Each stroke of massage can be continued for as long as you and your baby feel comfortable.
3. Communicate: Keep communicating with your baby - talk sweetly, sing a song, make funny faces, and do anything that will enhance your bond.
4. Never Massage when baby is full: Give your baby some rest time after a feed, before you start the massage. Massaging on a full stomach will cause discomfort, and might make him/her bring up the feed.
Which is the Best Baby Massage Oil?
There is no right answer to this question since each baby’s skin type is different. Moreover, there are climatic and geographical factors to consider too.
You may or may not use oil for massaging your baby. Some moms avoid oils because oils are really sticky. Many use Desi Ghee instead. But if you use an oil, make sure it’s free of parabens and other chemicals and is edible because the little one may get it in its mouth by chance. Do a patch test of the oil on your baby’s skin before using it for massage. If your baby’s skin reacts, do not use the oil. This is particularly applicable for babies with allergies, skin rashes, and sensitive skin. But, to be on the safe side, consult your doctor before using any oil on your baby.
Tips to hire a great Maalishwali (Masseuse)
In India, maalishwalis are quite famous. They come to your place after you hire them and do their work. They are well versed in offering massage following the traditional techniques to moms post-delivery and babies. However, there are certain factors that you need to pay attention to while hiring a masseuse for your little one. Hiring the perfect and right maalishwali becomes the most important task in the first place. Do your research. Look around, and ask your friends or relatives if they know a trusted person.
Here are a few tips from our side for you to keep in mind while hiring a maalishwali for your baby.
1. Hire a Trained and Experienced Masseuse:
Hiring an untrained person may invite troublesome consequences. Make sure the person you hire is properly trained by trusted individuals/agencies and has enough past experience in the field. A trained individual will be educated about the right strokes that are to be used on the tender, delicate body of your little packet. Any wrong stroke may cause danger particularly when your baby is a newborn. After all, safety comes first.
2. Ensure Hygiene
An unhygienic and unclean scenario may summon diseases and your little one is still not immune to diseases. The immune system of your baby will not mature till they turn two or three months old. Particularly, premature babies and babies with low birth weight are more prone to diseases and infection due to their immature immune systems. Thus, hygiene is key. You need to ensure that the maalishwali does the following before touching your baby.
a) Wash their hands properly with handwash.
b) They may have long nails. Ask them to trim their nails before massaging the body. Long nails can make dirt come in contact with your baby’s body thereby inviting infections. Long nails can also hurt the soft body of your little bundle.
c) Do not allow them to carry their own oils/lotions. Ask them to use only what you give them.
d) Make sure they wear clean clothes. Ask them to change to fresh clothing in case of a rainy season.
3. Check Their Availability
Make sure the concerned person is available at your convenient and suitable time. If not, explore further. There’s no point getting a baby massage done when the baby is sleeping, just to suit the convenience of the Maalishwaali!.
4. Try to Avoid a Maalishwali who is constantly on her phone
A peaceful, silent atmosphere compliments the entire massaging experience. Request you Maalishwali to put the phone away if you spot her constantly and habitually talking over the phone while the baby massage is going on.
When hiring a masseuse, it's also crucial to consider their health. Inquire if they or anybody in her family has ever suffered from long illnesses, such as a cough or breathing difficulties. If this is the case, avoid hiring her because she could be a carrier of Tuberculosis, Asthma, or even Covid-19.
6. Check Authenticity
Inquire about the authenticity of the agency in case you are hiring the maalishwali from any agency or a beauty parlor. Look for reputed agencies trusted by consumers. Do your research on the concerned agency and the particular service of massage if possible. Read reviews online. Look for their profiles on various social media platforms, see their activity, and try to understand if they have gained the trust of their clients. Know as much as possible about the agency before hiring anyone from there, because it’s your baby, and no risk is worth it.
Practices that are Harmful to the Babies
While we talk about the health benefits of baby massage, there are a few factors worth putting light on. There are certain traditional practices that many have been continuing for ages; practices that can be not so helpful for the babies. We have listed them here.
1. Putting Oil in the Ears, Nose, and Navel of the Baby
It is completely unadvisable to put oil in your baby’s navel, nose, and ears. All of these are dark and warm regions where bacteria or fungus can multiply happily. Any usage of oil in there on a regular basis, will not help. It can easily give rise to an infection.
Many parents worry about their baby’s earwax and feel oil will help to soften it. Earwax acts as a natural barrier that shields the baby’s ears from external moisture and germs and does not affect the hearing of your baby. Do not worry about your baby’s earwax. Your baby’s ears are too small and delicate to be cleaned with a cotton swab or earbud which invites risks of injury which can possibly impair your baby’s hearing. If you feel there is a lot of earwax, consult your doctor.
Talking about your little one’s belly bottom, try to keep it dry and clean until the umbilical cord falls off. Look out for signs of infection and immediately contact the doctor if you find any of the following:
a) The belly button and the area around it are red, swollen, and/or seem painful.
b) Swollen, weepy, or smelly umbilical stump.
d) Your little one appears to be uncomfortable and unwell, is not feeding properly, and showing a lack of energy in general.
2. Putting Kajal in the Eyes of Your Baby
Yet again, putting kajal or surma in the eyes of the babies that supposedly protects them from buri nazar (evil eyes) is a very traditional practice parents have been doing since times immemorial. Kajal has carbon. Stibnite (lead sulfide) or Galena (sulfide mineral) are typically ground using a mortar and pestle to create kajal, which is a black powder with silvery glitter. Burning a wick, gathering the soot, and adding edible oils is an alternative method.
Two newborn deaths attributed to the usage of kajal have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lead is poisonous in essence. It can harm the brain, bone marrow, kidneys, and other organs. Blood lead levels that are too high might cause unconsciousness, convulsions, and even death. Children are more susceptible to lead poisoning due to their growing nervous systems and higher gut absorption rates. In actuality, even very low amounts of lead exposure—whether from oral intake, inhalation, or transdermal exposure (through the skin)—can be detrimental and interfere with brain development. Additionally, the duration of lead exposure raises the danger of poisoning.
Hence, we request you to strictly refrain from putting kajal in the eyes of your little bundle if you are unsure of the quality. Exercise caution.
3. Massaging Forcefully
This stands true regardless of whoever is massaging your baby, you, or your massage lady. A maalishwali or a dai often uses rough techniques of massage which can prove to be detrimental to the little packet’s delicate body and skin. Many doctors prefer the mothers to massage the baby in place of a masseuse because a mother’s care, love, and affection are unmatched. Understand, that your baby’s skin is really soft and delicate and is incapable of handling a lot of pressure. Remember, the massage should be relaxing and must not end up hurting your little bundle.
4. Is Baby Powder Safe?
Asbestos is a mineral that naturally occurs near talc mineral reserves. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organization (WHO), has classified talc with asbestos as “carcinogenic to humans”. It has also classified the use of talc-based powder on genitals and buttocks as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. It doesn’t stop here. Repeated talc inhalation has been linked to lung damage, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Talc has been prohibited in health and cosmetic products by the European Union due to safety and health concerns. So, read the product label twice before you put that powder on your baby’s body, particularly the genitals.
5. Massaging Against Your Baby’s Wish
In case your child shows signs of irritation or annoyance while you massage, stop immediately. Massaging against his will only irritates and frustrates him further, and seeing your little one cry is not worth it.
6. Pinching Your Baby’s Nipples
Exposure to certain chemicals during pregnancy might lead to a little enlargement of your baby’s breasts. You may also spot a milky, white discharge, popularly called “witch’s milk”, which is absolutely common in many babies. You have nothing to worry about. But what you must pay heed to is the fact that you must avoid pinching the nipples of your little one to discharge the milky liquid. And, DO ask the massage lady not to pinch the nipples or even apply any pressure on his breasts. Talk to your doctor first and follow their suggestions.
7. Pinching/Pullin Nose to Make It Look Pointed
Many maalishwalis and even parents pull or pinch their baby’s nose to change its shape and make it look pointed. If you are one of them, stop. Pinching or pulling won’t help. The shape of your baby’s nose is already determined by genes. There are instances where parents have ended up breaking the bone of the nose of the baby while putting pressure on his nose. So, be careful with each and everything you do with your baby.
The roots of massage lie in India. It is an Indian tradition that has been continuing since times immemorial. Massage is magic, and that stands true for your baby too. Don’t be afraid to get your baby a good massage. It’s okay if you do not want to hire a professional masseuse and prefer to do it yourself. As long as the right techniques and safety measures are followed, it’s all good. So go, and treat your little one to a great massage!