Benefits of Infant Massage
- Massage releases both oxytocin and endorphins and therefore can assist in relieving discomfort from teething, congestion, colic and emotional stress.
- The abdominal stroking you will learn today can help relieve and prevent colic in babies.
- Some babies will sleep for longer periods of time following a massage (similar to adults experiencing sleepiness after relaxing Swedish style massage).
- Touch is a basic human need, like eating or drinking, and massage when done correctly can provide a reassuring and nurturing touch to infants.
- Aids growth
- Enhances the bonding process between parent and child
- Enhances body awareness and ability to say no to people touching their body.
Tips for Infant Massage
- Ensure before starting the massage that it’s a good time for you and your baby. If your baby is very resistant to massage, stop and try again at another time.
- Do not massage infants less than 5 months in conjunction with bath time. This will be too stimulating for the infant, try to space these activities apart.
- There is no need to watch the clock. Let the massage go for as long as you and your baby are happy doing it, this could be two minutes it could be thirty. Go by your intuition. If you can see that your baby has had enough, stop. Allow your baby to say “no” to you and perhaps try again later that day or next day. * Always begin by massaging the legs. This is a good way to introduce your touch to them.
- Use long firm strokes. Light feathery strokes can be irritating, just as they are for most adults.
- Never massage your baby while he/she is crying. (The only exception for this should be with colic and painful gas). Any arm movements going in and out from the chest indicate that you should stop the massage.
- Do not use normal massage blends with aromatherapy oils as these will be too strong for your baby. Ripple has a special infants and babies blend that is safe to use.
- Always use natural based oil such as sweet almond, never baby oil or other petroleum based products. These will nurture and nourish your baby’s skin as well as providing the “slip” needed to massage gently. Olive oil is too rich and thick to be effective.
Contraindications for Massage
- Open or weeping wounds
- Infected skin irritations
- Fractures or other acute injuries
- No massage over an unhealed navel
- Burns, including sun burn
- Undiagnosed lumps
- No abdominal massage if the infant has hiccups or has just been fed
Choose a room that is warm and draft-free where you can sit on the floor or a bed with the baby in front of you on a padded pillow or blanket. Choose a moment in which you and your child are relaxed and calm. A half hour after the baby has eaten is recommended.
Take a few deep breaths to relax before you begin. Stretch and shake the tension from your body. Feel free to speak to your baby, do not inhibit yourself.
If the baby wants to change position let them do so. Do not force your baby to keep a position; you can go back to these areas later.
Make sure your hands are clean and warm, remove jewelry and be sure to rub in a way that your nails don’t scratch the baby’s skin.
Warm the oil in your hands, enough to allow you to easily let your hands flow on the infant’s skin. Begin with the legs and feet using slow gentle strokes. If your baby avoids your gaze, looks away or splays her fingers or toes your touch maybe too firm. If your baby clenches her fists in front of her chest she is not ready to be massaged there. Observe your baby’s body language.
Start at the thighs and use long strokes down the legs to the feet. Think of the massage as a gentle, warm communication. Go slowly at the beginning so your baby can get used to the new sensations gradually. Stop if your baby cries.
“Milking”. Start at the top of the thigh and very gently squeezing the leg in a milking motion down to the heel. Reverse and go back up the leg. Try to be symmetrical in your massage, repeat on opposite leg the same number of times.
On the sole of her foot, use a thumb-over-thumb motion to massage from heel to toes. Use your whole hand to stroke the bottom of her foot from heel to toes. Stroke the top of her foot. Gently squeeze and pull each toe. Massage around her ankle using small circles.
Stomach – Note: Avoid massaging tummy if the cord hasn’t completely healed. Massage gently in clockwise direction (this is important to follow the colon and large intestine). This will help expel gas and help with colic. Follow up with small circles with your finger tips in a similar clock wise direction.
Walk your fingers around her navel, clockwise.
Hold knees and feet together and gently press knees up toward her abdomen. Rotate baby’s hips around a few times to the right. (This often helps expel gas.) Place hand on tummy horizontally and rock your hand from side to side a few times.
Chest- With both hands together at the center of your baby’s chest, push out to the sides, following the rib cage, as if smoothing out the pages of a book. Without lifting your hands from your baby’s body, bring them around in a heart-shaped motion to the center again.
Arms – do some long strokes from the shoulder down the arms and to the palms. This is a shiatsu stroke often used on infants and is very relaxing. Hold her wrist with one hand and hold your other hand in a C-shape around baby’s upper arm; stroke from her shoulder down to her wrist. Massage her palm, moving thumb over thumb from heel of her hand to her fingers.
Face – With your thumbs, stroke across the upper lip and then across the lower lip and into the cheek as if drawing a smile on your baby’s face. This helps soothe the muscles used for sucking Cradling your baby’s head in both hands, massage the scalp with your fingertips, as if you’re shampooing. (Avoid the fontanel, the soft spot on top of baby’s head.) Massage her ears between your thumb and index finger.
Trace a heart shape on your baby’s face, bringing your hands together at the chin. Place your thumbs between your baby’s eyebrows, and stroke out. Again with your thumbs, stroke gently out over baby’s closed eyelids. Stroke from the bridge of the nose out over the cheeks. Using your fingertips, massage the jaw in small circle.
Back Place baby on tummy horizontally in front of you, or lay her across your outstretched legs. Keep her hands in front of her, not at her sides. With both of your hands on baby’s back, move each hand back and forth (keeping them going in opposite directions) from the base of the neck to her buttocks. Hold your baby’s buttocks with one hand and use the other to stroke down from her neck to her buttocks.
Using your fingertips, massage in small circles down one side of baby’s spine and up the other. Avoid pressing on her spine directly. Massage her shoulders with small circular motions. Massage her buttocks with big circular motions. Holding your fingers like a rake, stroke down her back.