Bonding with Baby: Infant Massage
My grandson getting a massage from mom, who just so happens to be an RMT!
Did you know that touch is critical to your baby’s neurological, physical, and emotional development? Everything from cuddles and kisses to playtime and massage helps baby’s brain develop along with an unbreakable parent-child bond.
Massage in particular is a great way to help your baby relax, eliminate painful gas, and exercise growing muscles. Babies who receive daily massage sleep better, cry less, and form healthy attachments to parents and other family members.
Not only will your baby enjoy a regular rubdown but you will also find yourself with the feel-goods as oxytocin gets released in your brain to increase bonding, elevate your mood and reduce stress.
Infant massage is easy. Start by warming a pea-sized amount of oil in the palm of your hand, then use gentle strokes to massage baby’s back, tummy, arms, and legs. Don’t rub too firmly, the way you yourself might enjoy a massage—just rub in soft circles while gently bending and straightening arms and legs. You can’t really do it wrong, but for a more specific step-by-step guide to infant massage techniques (complete with adorable photos), click here.
You’ll be able to tell whether or not the massage is welcome and if your baby is comfortable and warm based on their reaction (facial expressions, sounds, and body language). Stop while your baby is still enjoying their massage, after about 10 minutes or so. A baby massage does not need to take a whole hour!
And of course, consider what you put on your baby’s skin. Organic carrier oils such as sunflower, jojoba, olive, grapeseed, and calendula will work great. Some people like to add essential oils to their carrier oil for the therapeutic benefits of an aromatic massage, however I personally caution their use for people that are not trained or educated in safe essential oil use for babies and children. High quality organic and baby-safe essential oils of lavender, roman chamomile, neroli, rose, mandarin, and sweet orange are only safe in very low dilutions of 0.5% to 1.0% in your carrier oil. For example, 20 ml of sunflower oil with 2 drops (0.5% dilution) or 4 drops (1% dilution) of essential oil.
But if you aren’t exactly comfortable concocting an aromatic oil to slather all over your baby, allow me to do the work for you. When creating my Baby Oil, I chose to replace essential oils by infusing organic flowers of Roman Chamomile, Calendula, and Rose in Sunflower oil. It yields a delicately sweet scent that carries all the benefits without the risk. Infused oil is my preferred option for newborns or sensitive skin types because it’s safe yet effective for receiving all the therapeutic properties of the flower essences without using essential oils.
Incorporate infant massage into your nightly ritual after bath time for the smoothest, sleepiest baby on the block. And see if your partner is willing to give you one before bed, too. Try taking turns: I massage baby, you massage me, and tomorrow we switch. Now that will certainly make for one big happy family!