Massage For A Newborn: The Indian Context

Baby massage is a wonderful way to bond with your newborn, providing sensory stimulation, better sleep, improved blood circulation, and aid in digestion.

Holding your new baby in your arms is a glorious feeling. Every new mom is eager to talk and bond with their baby but after babbling in baby talk, we are stumped about how to go on. That’s what baby massage is all about. Once you are over the jitters of the first few days and around the time your child’s umbilical stump falls off, you can begin a daily ritual of baby massage. The easiest way to connect with your baby! All you need to do is retreat with your baby to a quiet, well lit room, where you place baby down on a soft sheet and communicate one on one with him as you massage his body. This time is special as mommy and baby get to understand each other, smile, laugh, and in general not just spend quality time but also connect with one another. As a new mom, I realized my baby loved it when we played little action songs and when I tickled his feet! Those giggles and gurgles made late nights, hormonal mood swings vanish and made everything seem worthwhile. You may also like: Baby thermometers for new parents.  The question of whether a massage is important for baby or not will be answered by the benefits of massage to a baby:

  1. Sensory stimulation: Massage caters to baby’s need for sensory stimulation. By touching and massaging baby is able to connect with the touch of the primary caregiver – the mother.
  2. Sleeps better: An oil massage and a warm bath will definitely help baby sleep better and longer.
  3. Increase blood circulation: Massage goes a long way in soothing a cranky, fussy, irritated baby. It helps baby’s blood circulation and relaxes her.
  4. Aids in digestion: Gentle long strokes along the body aids in relieving any digestion problems and constipation.

You may also like: Ways to get baby to stop crying only moms can tell you about Should I do baby’s massage myself or get a traditional masseuse or ‘maalishwali’?  In India it is very common hire help to do the maalish or massage. These are women who are well known for their massage services through word of mouth. Hiring one depends on how confident you are and how much help you have around. Most new moms grapple with the question of how to do massage? How much pressure to apply? Or even how much a baby’s limbs can and should be stretched? Like motherhood, follow your instinct when it comes to massage too. Here are a few things to remember If hiring a maalishwali:

  • Ensure the person you hire keeps a burping cloth or a  clean cloth between her clothes and the baby. More often than not baby’s mouth will come in close contact with their clothes and you don’t want germs or bacteria from their clothes to come into contact with your baby. Alternatively you could also make her wear a massage gown.
  • Most maalishwalis in India keep the baby on their shins. Do ensure that she washes her hands and legs with an anti bacterial soap before touching the baby. Also do not keep the baby in direct contact with her skin. Do keep a massage cloth on her legs so the baby is not in direct contact with her skin.
  • Always be present when the baby is getting a massage done. This will not only make sure you enjoy all the giggles and squeals of your baby but you can also ensure no mishaps happen while she massages.
  • Make sure the maalishwali coughs or sneezes away from the baby.
  • Ensure the massage oil and bath water is not too hot. Make sure you check this one and never leave it to the maalishwali to check.

If you do the massage yourself: 

  • Do what feels comfortable for baby.
  • Always make sure your baby is fed, but let there be a gap between meal time and massage time. Remember a  baby that is hungry will be cranky and enjoy the massage a lot less than if he was satisfied with a full stomach.
  • Start with the legs and work your way up the body. Use upward strokes and take your cues from your baby as you go forward.
  • For baby’s chest and back use circular motions to massage.
  • Do not use oil close to baby’s eyes, ears, nose and mouth.
  • It is a myth that you can reshape the nose and head if you massage it out. Please do not try it.

 Choosing the oil:

  • You can choose from vegetable or plant based oils like sesame, almond oil, olive oil and coconut oil or any branded baby massage oil for your newborn.
  • Never buy a big bottle in the beginning. Always buy the smallest size available. Only if it suits your baby’s skin go ahead and get the economical size.
  • Baby skin is sensitive and can change according to seasons or over months. So you may need to change the oil specific to the season
  • Try and stay away from artificially perfumed oils as they may not suit baby’s sensitive skin

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