Massaging your Baby: How, Why and When?

Massaging your Baby: How and Why - PNSG Singapore

You’ve heard of postnatal massages. You’ve probably heard of prenatal massages as well. What if we told you that there are baby massages as well? Yes, it is a thing.

Understandably, you might see a few baby massage centres around. However, massaging your baby does benefit both the baby and yourself. 

Massaging your baby will be a delicate task, so don’t try kneading your baby like a ball of dough! First, let’s delve into the how of massaging babies and then into the why and when.

The Head

Starting from the tippy-top of your baby: the head. Start by cradling the head of the baby with both of your hands and massage the scalp with your fingertips as if you are shampooing your baby’s head. Remember that your baby’s skull is still soft, so do avoid the fontanel (fancy word for the soft part of the skull).

Moving a little lower to the ears, gently massage using your thumb and index finger. Next, starting from between the eyelids, gentle stroke out to the nose, cheeks, and finally around the jaw.

Every step of massaging a baby’s head should be done as lightly as possible while still applying pressure, as babies are very sensitive around the head area. Circular motions are suitable for most of the head since that is the general shape of this part of the body.

Tummy, Chest, and Back

The front side of your baby’s torso is perhaps the most important body part to massage. Starting, position your hand to enable it to mimic the motion of a paddle across your baby’s tummy from the base of the rib cage and stroke downwards towards the abdomen. With a circular motion, massage the abdomen gently. Hold their knees and feet together and gently press their knees up toward her abdomen.

Rotate the baby’s hips around a few times to the right, which can help expel gas. Place your hand horizontally on their tummy and rock it from side to side a few times. While you’re at it, do make sure that the baby’s cord has fully healed.

Going back to the chest, place both hands on your baby’s chest and stroke outward from her breastbone to her shoulders. In a crisscross pattern, stroke diagonally on one side of your baby’s hip, up and over the opposite shoulder, and back down to her hip. Going to the other side, you find yourself at your baby’s back.

Finally, a part of the baby that is not as fragile as the rest. While keeping your baby’s hands by their side, use a hand to gently stroke down from the top of the back of the neck down to the butt. Also, massage the shoulders and buttocks in circular motions while avoiding the spine.

Arms & Legs

What better way to finish the massage if not by massaging your baby’s limbs? Go for the arms first, and proceed to the legs afterwards. Hold your baby’s wrists with one hand, and stroke downward from shoulder to wrist. Emulate gently, wringing a towel on your baby’s arms to help them relax. Carefully pull each of your baby’s fingers, as it will help them relax their joints.

Going down to the legs, start lifting one of the baby’s legs by the ankle. Relax the leg by lightly tapping on the upper part of the thigh. With your free hand, gently stroke from the thigh down to the foot and gently pull on the toes. At the bottom of the foot, apply light pressure with your thumb from the heel to the toes. Repeat these steps on the other foot, and voila! You are done massaging your baby!

So, when should I massage my baby?

While massage is known to aid digestion, you might want to avoid massaging them when it’s right around their feeding time, whether before or after.

Let everything take its time to settle, and give it at least 45 minutes after your baby is fed before you put them in for a massage.

Next, it is also crucial to watch your baby’s mood. If they seem uneasy or are about to be fussy, perhaps it is not the best time to practise the massage.

On the other hand, if they seem calm, they may be up for a bonding session with Mummy!

You would also want to monitor their body language. If their arms and legs are relaxed, that could mean a good opportunity.

Likewise, if their body is stiff and they keep turning away from you when you try to interact, it is most likely not a good time.

To answer when and how often you should massage your baby, it really depends on whether you are planning to make it a daily routine. If you are, you can set a specific time each day for the massage so your baby can anticipate it.

At the beginning stage, you can try different timing throughout the day over a period of a few days to see which one your baby prefers the most.

You might notice at this point that the ‘right’ timing is centred around your baby’s behaviours. Put simply, rather than just following the clock, you should try to arrange the massage routine revolving around their activities.

If you are not in any way planning to let your baby associate massage with sleep, try to only sometimes massage them right before bedtime. And vice versa! If making it a part of your baby’s bedtime routine or sleep association is your mission, go ahead.

You’re definitely off to a good start. Keep in mind there might be effects later on when you can no longer perform massage as regularly as you do right now, such as your baby facing difficulty falling asleep.

Should I use oil?

Typically, all massages require oil, but this is not compulsory. At the end of the day, it depends on what you and your baby are comfortable with.

Babies have fragile skin, so many parents prefer to incorporate the oil into their baby’s massage in order to not cause irritation due to friction.

Meanwhile, some parents also feel using oil can make the whole process messy, especially considering it’s performed on a baby.

Some others simply worry about the ingredients of the oil, in case they can potentially harm a baby’s sensitive skin. Fret not, baby oils are generally safe and suitable for their sensitive skins. Of course, you can test the compatibility through a test patch first.

If your baby can tolerate oil well, it can be very helpful to your massage.
That said, oils are not the only tool that can help you.

Various baby items and toys could help keep your baby calm during the ‘massage sessions’, thus making your job easier. It doesn’t take a lot, really.

Is it okay to massage my baby if they have health issues?Massage generally should not pose any health risks to anyone. Regardless, there is no harm in being careful, especially for a parent to a baby.

If your baby has underlying health issues that make you worry, it is best to seek advice from a medical doctor. They will let you know whether massage is recommended for your little one.

Afterwards, finding the proper and appropriate techniques to massage your baby is also up to you. You should be on the right track as long as you follow what professionals teach you.

It might take some practice before you find the exact massage techniques your baby will love, but you will eventually get there!

The Benefits

So you have massaged your baby, but what are the benefits of baby massage? Baby massage can bring hundreds of benefits to your little one. First, the more physical contact you have with your baby, the more you bond with them. Touch is one of the ways of forming deep bonds between parent and child, as it provides babies with a sense of protection and love from a parent.

Other than that, obvious benefits include your baby being generally more relaxed, not getting upset as easily, and crying less. Yeah, finally, a way to make your baby cry less. Mommies, rejoice!

Other benefits include:

  • Familiarising and encouraging interactions between you and your baby
  • Letting your baby relax and calm down
  • Promoting a good night’s sleep
  • Reducing crying and fussiness

…and so many others you’ll be pleasantly surprised by!

Closing Words

Now that your baby is all cosy and relaxed, you must be envious of your little angel! Remember to pamper yourself as well in this period.

Why not try a postnatal massage from the professionals like those at Postnatal Massage Singapore?

Surely, after knowing how to massage your baby’s head and how to massage your baby’s back, you will leave not only with a smile but also feeling pampered and refreshed because we’ll massage you with the same love and care that you used when massaging your baby!

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