Types of Infant Massage
There are two main types of infant massage, Indian and Swedish.
In Indian infant massage, strokes are directed away from the torso to relax the flexor muscle.
In Swedish infant massage, strokes are directed away from the extremities of the torso, to bring the blood to the heart and the lungs.
Regardless of the method used, it is important that firm pressure be applied. Light, feather strokes can be aversive to the infant because they are experienced as a tickle.
The Position for you and your baby
The massager should find a comfortable position for massaging the baby. The adult’s back should be straight, most of the movement should come from the lower back.
For massaging newborns, many therapists recommend a cradle pose. The adult sits on the floor with legs stretched, back supported against furniture. The knees are bent slightly outward, with soles of the feet touching each other.
The cradle created by the legs is then padded with blankets and the infant is placed in the center. This position helps the infant feel secure and conserve warmth. In addition, if the infant’s head is placed at the arches of the feet, the baby’s head can be aligned to ensure maximum eye contact.
Choosing the right oil
When parents are preparing for infant massage, experts recommend that they lubricate the baby’s skin to prevent friction. Peanut and Almond oils have a pleasant aroma but are frequently associated with allergic reactions in infants.
Vegetable oils can break down into other components that can be harmful to a baby’s skin. Many vegetable oils are not considered pure, and should not be used on infant skin. It would therefore be a safe bet to choose a mineral oil that is pure, gentle, fast absorbing with a minimum amount of fragrance.
Benefits of Infant Massage
- Relaxes Infant
Loving touch lessens tension, fussiness and irritability. Digestion is aided and this can provide relief of gas and colic. Massage is also a wonderful way to lessen stress of parent and baby.
- Enhances Bonding
Touch conveys nurturing and love, the essential ingredients for emotional and physical growth and well being.
- Aids Growth and Development
Studies have shown increased weight gain, and immune function. Myelination of nerves is also increased. These things in turn are needed for brain and muscle development. Massage not only improves your baby’s circulation and heart rate, but also benefits her breathing and digestion.
- Promotes Communication
Parents become more aware of baby’s nonverbal cues. One on one communication instills a massage of love and security.
- Improves Baby’s Sleep
As your infant learns to relax and release stress, sounder and longer sleep is often the end result.
Newborns have relatively short attention span so the massage sequence should consist of only a few repetitions of each technique. It is best to perform a full sequence everyday, accompanied by a nursery rhyme or constant talking, which will have the baby gurgling and cooing with delight. As the baby grows to enjoy these sessions, you can increase the time you spend on the massage.
Baby’s massage should be carried out in a safe and climatically appropriate temperature. Choose a time when the baby is not hungry and just before a bath, so that the baby can enjoy it without being disturbed by hunger pangs.
Effects of Infant Massage
In a study done on babies to see the effects of massage on them, researchers found that massaged infants had no problem falling asleep. In addition, crying and cortisol levels decreased in the babies that were regularly massaged, suggesting a reduction in stress. As a long term effect, these babies gained more weight, improved face to face interaction, demonstrated decreased levels of urinary stress hormones and showed increased serotonin levels suggesting less depression.
Infant Head massage Head Massage
Touch the forehead, temples and the base of the cranium, eyebrows and eyelids, nose, cheeks, the area around the mouth, ears and surrounding area.
Infant Jaws massageJaws
Gently make small strokes and massage the posterior part of the neck with slow movements down to the shoulders. Softly put both hands on the shoulders. Caress the baby from the neck to the shoulders in the direction of his chest.
Infant Shoulder and arms massage Shoulders and Arms
Form a ring with your fingers and thumb around your child’s arm. Begin to caress around the armpit and then go down along the arm. Be very careful when you arrive at the elbow, it is a very sensitive region.
Infant Stomach massageStomach
Massage the stomach in a circular way (the genitalia area is excluded from the massage). Caress the abdomen moving your hands clockwise beginning below the ribs.
Caress each leg with your whole hand, press gently on the thighs. Slightly flex the legs and knees pressing the thighs gently against the body.
Infant Heel and feet massage Heels and Feet
A foot massage is very relaxing. Begin by putting a soft pressure on each toe, then the foot and return to the toes again. Sometimes a foot massage can help to reduce stomach pain. Caress gently all the toes. Apply circular movements at the heels.
Infant Back massageBack Massage
Turn your baby around. Begin with large and slow movements that include head, neck, back and legs always in one direction. Give the baby soft strokes on the shoulders and back and massaging with your fingertips with circular movements. Do not massage the spinal cord, only put your hands over it and let the baby feel the warm sensation.
Put your hands at the top of the legs and begin gently caressing while working your way down towards the foot.