For a newborn, the sense of touch can symbolize many things. For a tiny human who can neither use words nor gestures to communicate their feelings, it also serves as a strong tool for communication, coming a close second to crying. Establishing a newborn baby massage routine right from the beginning can help you use the sense of touch to calm and comfort your baby. Besides helping in strengthening the baby's muscles, massages also help in fortifying the parent-newborn bond. The benefits of newborn baby massage are numerous, and that's why our grannies swear by it. However, giving a massage to a tiny newborn can be intimidating for some parents. Here are some hands-on tips and tricks to ease you into the process.
Understanding the benefits of massage for your newborn goes a long way in motivating parents to incorporate it in their baby care regime and follow it religiously. Here are some top advantages of massage for your newborn:
Research indicates that stimulation triggered by a massage routine helps in boosting your newborn's social and psychological development, and also helps in establishing a strong bond with parents.
Massage helps in increasing the oxytocin levels in babies, which means it acts as a natural stress buster. It also helps in soothing the body muscles, which in case of babies tend to get sore and stiff from the constant limb movement.
The relaxations and skin stimulation brought on by a massage help babies sleep faster and better. Just think of how you drift into sleep after a body massage or spa session. Your baby is no different.
Giving your baby belly massages for gas can help alleviate colic pains, which is a persistent problem with newborns.
It also helps in improving blood circulation besides enhancing the development of the baby's nervous system and motor skills.
(Also read: Newborn Baby Skin Care Tips You Must Know)
The best time to give your newborn a massage is when they are well-rested, alert, and in a playful mood. This, of course, varies depending on the baby's sleep and feeding patterns. So, it is hard to pick out one standard time for it. In fact, it may vary for the same baby on a day to day basis. The one thumb rule to remember is to never give your baby a massage just before or after feeds, as it can lead to poor digestion and vomiting. You can choose to either give a massage before their bath or immediately afterwards. Since it helps babies sleep better, a massage before bed-time is also highly recommended.
Now that you know all about newborn baby massage benefits and have figured out the perfect time window to squeeze it in your routine, here are some useful tips to help you get started:
Before getting started with the massage, give your baby a slight rub on the belly or behind the ears to see if they are feeling up for it. If your baby seems uneasy or irritated by the touch, it is probably not a good time.
If your baby coos, you have the green signal to get started. Begin by massaging your baby tummy just below the ribs. Moving your fingers in a circular motion without applying too much pressure is the right technique for baby belly massages for gas. This helps aid digestions and relieves gas, acidity, or colic.
Move to your baby's legs, gently massaging each leg moving your entire hand in upward motion. You can put light pressure on the thighs and calf muscles but never on the knees and bones. Softly push the baby's legs toward their belly and place them back in position.
Massage the sole of the feet in gentle upward strokes, press the tip of each toe lightly and then caress the toes by moving your fingers in circular motions. Repeat this for the heels as well. The same massage technique can be followed for hands too.
While massaging your baby's arms, form a ring with your middle finger and thumb and slide down the arm gently, using extra caution around elbows, and then move them back up. Repeat this several times.
Now, lay your baby on their tummy, carefully placing their head to one side, and massage the back. Move your hands in circular motions, going from the tailbone up to the shoulders and back.
While your baby is in this position, massage the back of their head gently. Now, place them on their back and massage the crown area. You've got to be extra cautious with working around the soft spot on the head, as the bones of the skull are still not fused together and this spot is particularly vulnerable to injuries.
Before you hold your baby again, clean your hands and wipe the baby's body with a soft washcloth to get rid of the greasiness in order to rule out the risk of any inadvertent slips.
In a matter of days, your baby will start looking forward to these massage sessions, as will you. It is recommended to continue giving your baby a massage at least once a day until they are a year old. You can, of course, continue the ritual for longer if both you and your baby enjoy it.
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