Gently massaging your baby offers benefits to both you and your baby. In addition to the physical and mental health benefits, the massage can also be a wonderful bonding experience. Massaging your baby helps to relax both parent and baby, and can promote healthy growth and weight gain, and aid in circulation and digestion for the baby. Giving a massage can also help attune you to your baby’s non-verbal cues, and will help your baby get a better night’s sleep.
You can begin to massage a healthy baby as early as three weeks old, using edible oil from your kitchen, such as olive oil or grape seed oil. Rebecca Blake, of San Francisco’s Uplifting Yoga for All, cautions against using any creams or synthetic products, as your baby’s skin will absorb it and she will most likely put her hands in her mouth at some point during the massage. You can also massage with your bare hands if you prefer, or an edible oil, but avoid putting oil on your baby’s face.
Blake offers these tips for massaging your baby:
- Start by asking your baby permission to massage her. A calm baby who maintains eye contact with you is ready for a massage.
- Do it in a calm, serene environment.
- Wait at least 30 minutes after a feeding.
- Go at a slow, even pace that is soothing to the baby.
- Maintain eye contact with your baby throughout the massage.
- Talk or sing to your baby throughout the duration of the massage.
The massage can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, but take your cues from your baby. If she seems to be relaxed and enjoying it then you may continue, but if she becomes fussy you should stop for the time being and try again another day.
There are books, DVDs, and workshops around the country devoted to teaching specific massage techniques and strokes that you can learn to use on your baby. However, no specialized training is required to begin gently.