New moms know that getting a good massage is one of life's greatest pleasures. Remember how amazing those prenatal massages were? That feeling of all of life's stresses melting away is magical. The same is true for babies. They also love getting massages and receive many of the same exact benefits us moms do from massage. But if you're like us, the thought of giving your little one a nice rub-down can be a bit daunting. We turned to infant massage expert and licensed massage therapist Linda May Thomas of Bon Accord Massage in Rye Brook, New York for some tips.
When is the best time of day to give your baby a massage?
Linda May Thomas: The best time is between feeds when your baby is neither too full nor too hungry. This is a little tricky when they’re tiny as it can seem like you’re constantly feeding but, even if you manage just a few minutes at a time when your baby is awake and alert but settled, it will be beneficial.
What are the benefits of infant massage?
LMT: There are many benefits for you and for your baby! Baby massage helps relaxation, encourages longer and deeper sleep, improves circulation of blood and lymph helping to build a strong healthy immune system, helps develop body awareness and coordination, and it’s excellent for all kinds of digestive issues particularly gas and constipation. Massage also gives you as a parent a deeper understanding of your baby’s behavior, crying and body language and helps you feel more connected to your baby. One of the big things for a parent is that it teaches you a skill you can employ throughout your baby’s childhood and empowers you with techniques you can use for common childhood complaints as well as any stress and anxiety.
Do you recommend using a baby oil or other skin care product when massaging?
LMT: Yes, it does feel better to use an oil or lotion, as it helps your hands to glide more gently over your baby’s skin. I generally recommend organic safflower oil as it’s odorless, very light and super-gentle. Other oils that are nice to try include coconut and sesame oils, but always test on a small area first to make sure there’s no adverse reaction. I avoid lotions, as they contain too many other ingredients which might be harmful. I avoid nut oils in case they cause an allergic reaction.
Does massage help usher baby into nap/sleep time?
LMT: Babies respond differently to massage depending on the time at which you do it. It can certainly aid relaxation and help soothe them to sleep, especially as part of their regular bedtime routine. Older babies and children are sometimes more stimulated by the massage, especially if it includes stretching and movement. And frequently, no matter what the age of the baby/child, a big bowel movement will follow!
What techniques do you recommend to newbie moms?
LMT: If I was to suggest one thing for newbie moms it would be a bit of abdominal massage after every diaper change, always in a clockwise direction to follow the direction of the colon, and followed by gentle “bicycling" of the legs (this is great for gas and constipation). Foot massage is wonderful too! Most babies love it and it's so easy to do even if your baby is fully clothed.
And P.S., DockATot docks are the perfect place to give your baby a massage. Their cozy air-permeable bumpers provide a cozy, snug and secure spot for little ones to drift off into deep relaxation.