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Baby Massage - The Power Of Touch


While a baby's life seems filled with nothing but pleasures like napping, cuddling and cooing, there are stresses as well. The environment, hunger, colic, wind, overstimulation and new situations can bring anxiety to a baby. Massage can help ease tension as well as bring about a whole host of physiological benefits:

  • Increase circulation
  • Improve sensory awareness
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Help tone muscles and aid growth
  • Stimulate the vagus nerve which aids digestion and deepens respiration
  • Relieve discomfort from colic, constipation, teething and congestion etc
  • Helps tone the digestive tract

Jenny, 49, an infant massage instructor certified by the US-based Loving Touch Foundation, teaches parents the art of infant massage. To her, massage is about bonding through touch, not just going through a sequence of movements. "It's about interacting with baby, communicating and tuning into baby's body. The more you touch, the more you can identify with your baby's needs," she explains. 

It's best to start when baby is below six months as you'll have a willing client with nowhere to go. Once she starts turning over or crawling, you'll find it hard to pin her down. Choose a time when baby is in a quiet, alert state. "This is when she will be responsive and more ready to learn," says Jenny.

Before You Start

Choose A Room That is Draft-Free

Sit on the floor or your bed with the baby in front of you on a blanket.

Have Clean And Warm Hands

Remove jewellery as they may scratch baby's delicate skin.

Take A Few Deep Breaths To Relax Yourself

Stretch and shake the tension from your body.

Use Natural Oils

Choose from sweet almond, grapeseed or jojoba (the most expensive). Do not use mineral oil which clogs the pores. If you want the oil scented, use only good quality lavender essential oil.

Baby Massage: Step By Step

Getting Ready

Always begin massaging in a comfortable position with your back well supported. Straddle your legs by putting the soles of your feet together. Spread a soft blanket or towel over your straddled legs. Nestle baby's head away from your stomach and position your baby in a position where you can look into each other's eyes. 

Tell baby that you are going to start the massage. Pour some massage oil onto your palm and rub your hands together and let baby smell the oil. Begin your massage slowly and gently to build your confidence and baby's acceptance. Hold one of baby's hands and use your other hand to run down the centre of baby's body. Your pressure should not be too heavy or too light. For newborns, the pressure is very much lighter.

General Massage

Legs

Begin with long, smooth strokes on one of the legs, using the palms of your hands and working all the way down to the foot. Do this a few times. Use your thumbs to walk up the sole of the foot and roll each toe. End with long, smooth strokes up the legs towards the heart. Repeat with the other leg.

Chest

Begin by placing both your palms side by side in the middle of baby's body. Using both hands and working in the opposite direction from the other, smooth the chest like you would on the pages of an open book. Next, make a heart-shape movement from the sternum to extend over the shoulders and down the sides of the body.

Arms

Gently take one of baby's arms and pat it with your other hand to relax any tension. Begin massaging by gliding down the whole arm to the hand using full palm contact. Repeat a few times. Open the palm of baby's hand and massage the palm and each finger. End with a few stroking movement using the entire palm of your hand. Start from baby's wrist and work up to the armpit. Repeat with the other arm.

Back

Place baby face down across your thighs so that baby's head is just sticking out on one side of your thigh. Begin by gliding the palms of your hands down from the shoulders to the buttocks. Next, gently sweep one palm across the back from the shoulder blade down to the tail bone, followed by the other palm as the first palm returns to the starting position. Do not press too hard on the spine. Then, with the pads of your fingers make small circles along the side of the spine starting from the neck and working down to the buttocks. End the massage with a full sweep from head to heels in feather-like movements.

Magic Moves For The Tummy

Paddling

Place your hands under the baby's buttocks and rock gently to loosen abdominal muscles. Remove your hands and place them on top of baby's abdomen just below the breastbone. Make scooping strokes down the abdomen till the pubic bone. Use the heel of the little finger side of the hand to do the paddling movements several times on the tummy. 

Knee-To-Tummy

Place your hands on the outside of your baby's thighs and cupping the sides of the knees, gently push the bended knees together as one unit towards the tummy and hold for three to five seconds. Release and repeat movements a few more times.

Hands Like The Clock

This movement is done clockwise around the abdomen. Starting from the right side of the baby with one hand, the other hand follows it in the same direction in smooth and continuous motion. Move from the right side of the body, across the abdomen and down the left side of the body. Repeat this sequence three times:

  1. Paddling downwards . Knee-to-tummy push
  2. Hands like the clock ~: Knee-to-tummy push
  3. Hands like the clock
  4. Knee-to-tummy push

Constipation And Gas

Colon Massage

Massage the colon using sweeping strokes with fingers of your right hand down the left side of the abdomen to pubic region (descending colon). Next, sweep across the abdomen (transverse colon) just under the ribs from baby's right side to left and down the descending colon. Next move is to sweep up from bottom of baby's right side, across the abdomen and down the descending colon like an inverted U.

Moonwalk

Glide fingers using finger pads in a "moonwalking" motion across the baby's right side of the abdomen to the left side in an arch. Do several rows covering different sections of the abdomen from top to the bottom.

Repeat the colon massage and moonwalk several times a day to help relieve constipation and gassiness. You may include the colic routine and knee-to-tummy push. Remember to enjoy massaging and make it a pleasurable experience for your baby and you. Keep the average time of each massage to between 20 to 30 minutes and shorter for new born and pre-term babies. Babies will get fussy if they are over-stimulated.

 

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