One of the greatest ways to nourish and bond with your new baby is through daily infant massage. There are many great benefits to both baby and mother when this becomes part of the daily routine. The ayurveda term for the self massage using warm oil is called Abhyangha. There are many similarities between this self-care treatment that adults benefit from and the loving touch that we can give to our little ones.
When doing the infant massage with your baby, there are a number of factors that you’ll want to consider before getting started. Provided below is a checklist, and after going through this a few times you’ll be sure to have it down!
This loving touch is among the first communication that your new baby will experience. Language is first developed through the sense of touch and received through the skin of your baby. What a great way to let them know you love them!
Enhances bonding for mom (or dad if he is the one doing massage) and baby
Creates awareness of body-mind-spirit connection
Builds strength in bones, joints and muscles
Going to sleep becomes much easier for baby
Cortisol is reduced and relaxation is improved
Research has shown that infant massage helps to prevent or even reverse colic
Improves circulation and elimination
Enhances the baby’s ability to create ojas, or the finest product of digestion, building strength and immunity
Stimulates release of prolactin in mothers which leads to improving milk supply
Can begin gentle massage in first days after their arrival - this may be the best time to learn together
After having done just a few times, it will happen easefully and like clockwork for both of you
Your ayurvedic postpartum doula will schedule an instruction session with you once the umbilical cord stump has fallen off.
While mornings or evenings are ideal for this massage, you want to make sure that it becomes routine that way you and baby both look forward to it every day.
When done in the morning, you can use more oil and more be more playful with the massage. In the evenings, use not as much oil and less strokes. Bathtime wonderfully follows the massage in the mornings. In the evenings you’ll want to skip the bath after massage to really encourage sleep mode without sudden wakefulness.
When To Skip
If your baby may be sick with any sort of cold or fever, skip the massage
Seek medical advice on massage for a preemie. While touch and gentle massage has shown to be beneficial for preemies, their sense organs and skin are also likely to be very fragile. More holding instead of rubbing may be best at this time.
Do not massage right after feeding or when your baby is hungry. Wait about 30 minutes after feeding.
Grimacing, crying, arching the back or squirming stiffly - these are all movements and cues that may indicate now is not a great time for massage. Something else may be needed.
Make sure the room is slightly warmer than usual with no draft. If you plan to bathe after massage, prepare your bath before you begin the massage.
Make sure bath is warm. If bath is drawn in a standard bathtub you can enjoy the bath time with your baby.
Prepare the oil by warming it. There are a couple of ways this can be done. Place the bottle of oil in a larger cup of hot water and in just a few minutes the oil is warm. Or drop just a small amount at one time into your palm and rub hands briskly to warm the oil before applying it.
Best oil to use is sesame. Nut oils can cause skin reactions and coconut oil may be too cooling for your baby. Here is a link for wonderful baby massage oil: https://www.weleda.com/product/c/calendula-baby-oil#showSlider
Make sure you have all towels, soaps, and fresh diaper in place for massage and bath before you begin.
Warm Pudding Soap is wonderful for cleansing the baby’s skin with. If your partner or a friend is there to help you during the massage and bath routine, they can help to prepare this. Apply to skin and then rinse off in bath. Here is the recipe:
1 Tbsp garbanzo flour
⅓ cup of milk (breast milk or whole milk - slowly add)
½ tsp sandalwood powder (optional)
Mix the flour with just enough milk to create a paste.
Add the remaining milk and put over medium high heat.
Stir occasionally until it bubbles.
At this point it has begun to thicken and will be ready within the next minute.
Apply before it cools too much; use at warm temperature.
You will want to follow with a very mild baby soap washing.
Sequence and Pressure
Start at the head, face and ears. Draw gentle circles across face, cheekbones and chin. Gently squeeze across rim of ears and lightly stroke across forehead.
Next go down to the abdomen, chest and arms. Do sweeping circles on the belly, in clockwise direction. If your baby has diarrhea, do counter clockwise circles. About 7-10 times.
Stroke from mid chest out to arms, and very gently pull out on each finger.
Massage circles on shoulders, elbows and wrists. Do long strokes on the long bones of arms. Draw arms (one at a time) in larger circles as if waving goodbye.
For legs, follow the same sequence as arms. Massage each leg separately with long strokes on the long bones and circles on each of the joints.
Press your thumb into bottom of feet and massage lengthwise down the achilles tendon and top of foot. Pull toes gently. Do the same large circles slowly with each leg.
Next massage the diaper area, including the hips and buttocks.
Turn baby over and support on your lap while massaging the back. Spend extra time here. Stroke out to shoulders, neck and hips.
Massaging the head and feet at night before bed will improve sleep!
Next, if your baby is not cueing that he is ready to be done, you can begin some stretching. Be gentle and do not force the motion. You may want to do this without the diaper to limit tight pinching around hips and waist. Repeat each a few times.
Extend the legs and cross over one another
Bend knees one at a time and then together up into the belly. Hold briefly.
Extend and stretch opposite arm and leg away from each other and then towards one another to touch across the torso. Hand reaches down toward the opposite hip, and the foot reaches up towards opposite shoulder.
Wrap baby’s arms around himself and then extend arms wide out to the sides. Hold onto baby from the wrists.
Start the baby massage with a warm heart. After you’ve considered all that needs to be consider in being prepared, then let it all go and connect with your baby lovingly before you begin.
Take a few slow deep breaths with your baby and recall the great amount of love you have in your heart for your baby. He too will feel this.
Turn on some sweet music or simply gaze into his eyes as you both relax and enjoy this journey together.