From the moment of birth, your baby knows you – your smell, your voice, your face. But perhaps the best way your baby knows you is from your touch. One beautiful way to use touch is to practice infant massage. Not only is massage enjoyable but medical studies have shown that massage can make babies more relaxed and even healthier. Most important of all, massage can enhance the emotional bond between you and your baby. To start, pour a small amount of oil into your hands and rub them together to warm the oil. This will make the massage more pleasurable for your baby.
When massaging your baby’s face, start in the middle of the forehead and push your hands out to the temples and down the cheeks. Rub your thumbs softly over your baby’s eyes. Draw your thumbs across your baby’s nose with light pressure, and spread out across the cheeks. Massaging around the baby’s mouth can be very soothing, especially when the baby is teething. Softly massage your baby’s jaws and behind the ears.
Bring your hands to your baby’s chest, place your hands in the middle, and push out towards the sides. Circle back towards the middle without lifting your hands from the baby. Now glide each hand to the opposite shoulder, moving back and forth in a crisscross motion. Whenever the baby needs more oil, simply put a little more on your hands and continue.
When massaging your baby’s arms, massage one arm at a time. With your hands around the baby’s arm, stroke the arm in an upward motion from the shoulder to the wrist, alternating your hands in rhythm. This stroke is called Indian Milking. The reverse movement, moving your hands from the wrist to the shoulder, is called Swedish Milking. Babies enjoy having their hands massaged. Open your baby’s hands and gently roll each finger one at a time. Rub the palm and the back of the hand, stroking upward towards the fingers. As you finish the arm, roll it gently between your palms.
Now do the same strokes with the baby’s other arm. You can do the Indian Milking going from shoulder to hand. You can also massage the arm with a smooth wringing motion. Massage can be done any time of day, in any place, on a blanket, on a bed. You can even use massage techniques to relax your baby in a bathtub or in a highchair.
Massaging the stomach not only makes the baby feel good, it can also improve digestion by relieving gas and constipation. For some babies, massage can help relieve colic as well. You can start massaging the stomach with a playful stroke called the Water Wheel. Move your hands like a paddle, one following the other. Lift up your baby’s legs, pressing them gently against the abdomen. This helps relax your baby’s stomach muscles even a little more. Rotate your hands in circles on the baby’s stomach.
You can do a three-part stroke called the I Love You stroke, which also helps your baby’s digestion. Finally, to complete the stomach massage, walk your fingertips across the baby’s belly, going from your left to your right. This stroke may help move along gas bubbles in the baby’s intestines.
Many of the leg strokes are similar to the arm strokes. You should focus on one leg at a time. You can start by using the Indian Milking stroke, massaging the leg upward from the hip to the ankle. You can also use the Swedish Milking stroke on the legs, moving your hands from the ankle to the hip. And you can use the light wringing motion, moving your hands up and down the baby’s leg. Many babies, like adults, love to have their feet massaged. Start by rubbing the bottom of the foot, running your thumb from heel to toe. Squeeze your baby’s toes one-by-one. Bring your thumbs across the top of the foot.
Now repeat these strokes, whichever ones your baby seems to enjoy, with the other leg. Many parents like to complete the infant massage by rubbing the baby’s back. Turn your baby over on the stomach. Sometimes, especially when a baby is young, it is easiest to do the back massage when the baby is lying across your lap, or you can lay the baby on a blanket or pillow. Remember, make sure that you are in a comfortable position as well. Start by rubbing your hands back and forth across your baby’s back. As you do this, move your hands together slowly up and down the back.
Now take one hand and swoop it firmly from the neck down to the behind. With your fingertips, make small circles all around your baby’s back. To complete the massage, to put the finishing touches on your special time together, stroke your baby’s back from the neck on down using long, smooth strokes, signaling to your baby that today’s massage is over.
Infant massage can provide many health benefits. It can improve your baby’s digestion, help your baby relax, and even make your baby sleep better. Most of all, massage can become an enriching personal time for you and your baby. Massage helps you communicate with each other better and to form a stronger bond.