The right way to do infant massage
The sense of touch has been detected in human embryos less than eight weeks old.
Being touched and caressed, being massaged, is food for the infant; food as necessary as minerals, vitamins, and proteins. Deprived of this food, the name of which is love, Babies would rather die – By Dr. Frederick Leboyer
Why Infant Massage?
Infant Massage enhances the parent-baby bond that helps create family-centric values. There are numerous benefits apart from the emotional connection. Skin stimulation and hormonal balance all have lifetime benefits by boosting brain-body communication.
The right way to do infant massage starts with understanding your infant.
The Three’s in Infant Massage
A newborn has six behavioral states. The ideal state to do an infant massage is the quiet-alert state. In this state, the infant is attentive, maintains eye contact, imitates facial expressions, observes their environment, and engages with their parents. The study says this is the best state to establish a positive brain connection.
Automatic and involuntary responses to touch or stimulation are called a Reflex. The reflexes parents observe when doing a massage are Moro, Palmar, Plantar, and Asymmetric tonic neck.
The third most important factor to consider is the cues of babies. The cues vary based on the age and surroundings of the child. Parents should understand the difference between engaged and disengaged cues.
Assessing the baby’s cues helps to understand when to stop or continue the massage. Perceiving the babies’ engagement cues such as lying quietly, relaxed, maintaining eye contact, and smiling are indicators to continue the massage.
When the baby expresses disengaged cues like yawning, frowning, making fussy noises, stiffening the body, and pushing away are indicators to stop massaging.
Body Awareness in Child
I always tell parents that a child’s bodily awareness and safety start with the massage. Infants are capable of expressing their likes and dislikes. They can also understand whether their expression is respected or not.
Parents are the primary caregivers of a child. So, the nurturing and loving touch should always come from the parent. It’s ideal if the parents do the massage for the baby.
Next comes the main questions every parent has.
Ideal Oil for Infant Massaging
Which oil should I choose when massaging?
The ideal oil is cold-pressed unscented vegetable oil.
eg: coconut oil, sesame oil, olive oil
Note: Always choose an oil that’s grown near your locality. Example: sesame and coconut is abundantly grown in India.
Why vegetable oil?
The skin is the largest organ and has many pores.
It is like sponge and absorbs everything. So, it’s ideal to choose mild vegetable oild.
Why unscented oil?
Like a fingerprint, the odor is unique for every individual. Your newborn’s senses are still developing. The smell of the parent plays a role in development, emotional connection, and bonding.
You can look for research articles on the same to understand better.
Don’ts in Oils
- Avoid Synthetic or mineral oil
- Oils infused with fragrance and chemicals are a big NO!!
Always follow the three steps when starting the massage
- Set the right environment and understand the infant’s behavioral state
- Start the massage by asking permission from the infant
- Understand and follow the infant’s lead. End the massage based on the cue.
Every child is unique, and needs differ. The recommendation here is to learn the massaging strokes from a certified professional.
We, adults, go for massages to relax and rejuvenate. The same applies to your child as well. Whatever you do to a child, put yourself in that place. That will give us the answer to our parenting method.
Next time when you’re massaging, observe your child. Are they enjoying it?
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. Learn infant massage from a certified professional. The article is general guidelines and awareness about infant massage.