Did you know that there are some truly great benefits to infant massage…when done correctly? Fortunately, getting started isn’t all that difficult! We’ll help you, don’t worry! Today, we’re sharing the benefits as well as a few easy steps for how to do it right.
When my oldest was four months old, we started to notice that she was delayed in her development. After consulting with our pediatrician, we connected with Missouri’s Parents as Teachers (PAT) and First Steps to begin receiving support (side note – Missouri’s early intervention services are extraordinary!). Our PAT advocate told us about infant massage and a parent educator who had been trained came out to our home to give us a tutorial.
While I certainly enjoy massages, I wasn’t too sure that it would make a huge difference for my infant (after all, her little 4-month old muscles couldn’t possibly be in knots, right?). Boy was I wrong.
Benefits of Infant Massage & How to Get Started
Infant massage has a host of benefits for your little one. Not only does it give you great one-on-one bonding time, but it also helps babies relax and may decrease crying. For our girl, it also helped to loosen her muscles (she had torticollis and still has dystonia). Regardless of whether your child has delays or not, infant massage may be something you’d like to try. But how do you get started? Make sure to talk with your pediatrician first, and if you’re given the green light, follow these tips.
- Create the right environment. Both of our kids loved baths as babies, so it was the start of our nighttime routine. After a warm, soothing bath, we would move into the nursery and dim the lights. You might even choose to play some calming music. Just as you are affected by the environment, so is your baby!
- Slightly warm a bit of natural oil. Rather than fancy massage oils or lotions, turn to your kitchen. We used olive oil, but coconut oil is another good option. Your baby’s skin will more quickly absorb natural oils, and you don’t need to worry about synthetic ingredients which might cause a negative skin reaction. Don’t warm the oil too much – it should just be enough to make it lukewarm.
- Keep your baby covered. Lay him on his back on the floor, and keep his body covered with a towel or blanket. Only expose the area you are massaging, then cover it back up as you move to the next spot. You don’t want him to get cold, or you’ll be working at cross purposes!
- Start at the top and work your way down. Start at the scalp before you have oil on your fingers and place both hands gently around your baby’s head with your fingers spread apart, avoiding the fontanels. Apply mild pressure, and move your fingers in a circular motion, similar to how you wash your hair. Work your way down the body – each arm, the belly, then each leg and foot.
- The pressure should be gentle but firm. Make sure that the pressure you apply is enough that it doesn’t feel like a tickle, but don’t overdo it so that it’s too intense for your baby’s sensitive skin.
- Know the right motions. As you move down the arms and legs, use a gentle alternating twisting motion with your hands. Once you reach the hand, use your thumbs to massage between the joints, and lightly tug on each finger. Use the same motions with the legs and feet. On the tummy, massage with your fingertips in a circular motion.
- Cuddle afterward. The entire massage will likely take less than 5 minutes, and as the oil soaks in, enjoy some cuddles. Hopefully your little one will be nice and relaxed and settle off to sleep soon thereafter!
As you create your new massage routine with your baby, read her cues. If she cries, arches her back, or seems agitated in any way, she clearly isn’t enjoying what you’re doing. You’ll find what works for the two of you and create another way to spend time strengthening your bond. Have fun!