We all know the benefits of massage for parents (moms can attest that a spa day does wonders for her well-being!). This ancient healing art also promises many health benefits for your baby. The power of a caregiver’s loving touch helps your little one feel calmer, cry less, sleep better, digest food more easily, and boost immunity. It also increases your child’s body awareness and strengthens her muscles and joints. Massage also positively enhances the bonding experience. Parents become more in tune with their child’s natural rhythms and the baby feels reassured as she continues to adapt and make sense of this big new world!
To get started, establish a safe and soothing massage routine. Many caregivers find that making massage part of bedtime works well since it is usually a relaxing experience and the baby is in a quiet, alert state. But for those with babies who don’t like to sit still, you can sneak in a short massage following diaper changes or during playtime. And depending on your child’s preferences and comfort level (follow her cues!), you can begin massaging your child with her clothes on and gradually over time move to skin-to-skin contact which is thought to promote optimal growth and development.
For the massage, warm the room to a comfortable level and find a stable, cozy spot like your lap for a small infant or stretched out on the floor. Cushion your little one using a soft towel that you can later wrap around her when your massage ends—body oil can leave your baby slippery, so an absorbent wrap will help you keep your grip and make it safe to pick her up. Next, warm a drop or two of natural body oil between your hands before you begin. Use slow, gentle strokes and communicate to your little one about what you are doing—babies and toddlers love to hear your voice, socialize with you, and learn about arms, legs, and toes! You’ll also learn from them, as their facial reactions, movements, and eventually words will guide you as to what they do and don’t like and what pressure is best.
Because your baby’s skin is delicate, using natural body oil will help your hands glide over her body without causing irritation. Skip synthetic oils because they are often more allergenic and essential oils because their concentrations aren’t generally suitable for children. It’s best to use light organic body oil such as olive or sunflower—like that from Honest—because it’s safe for children, even those with sensitive skin, it doesn’t have any offensive odors (no harsh chemicals, petroleum-based ingredients, or synthetic fragrances!), and it’s great for moisturizing.
Your first massage with your child can be as simple as a few strokes and you can work your way up to a full body massage. Make sure to consult your physician about when and how to best introduce massage if your baby is premature, has specific health needs, is ill or has a fever, or if you have any other concerns.