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Simple Techniques for Infant Massage

February 05, 2016 3 min read


Simple Techniques for Infant Massage

Baby massage, sometimes referred to as infant massage, is as great for the baby as it is for the masseuse or masseur. It’s pretty obvious why… babies are adorable, and they love touch as much as they require it for healthy development. Sometimes adults can be afraid to administer massage to babies for fear of causing pain to the infant or doing it incorrectly.

The good news is that it’s really quite simple and research has shown are that baby massage aids restful sleep and relieves colic. It is also thought to enhance the developing immune system and motor skills.

There are a few general rules to follow, such as to make strokes gentle but firm, so as not to tickle them. The baby will let you know when it has had enough, so it’s important to watch for signs of irritation or distress. A baby massage will usually go on for anything from ten to thirty minutes.

Using a clean towel or blanket, and first test your massage oil (grape seed or jojoba is best) on a small area of the baby’s skin. It is best to do this one day before the massage in case any delayed irritation occurs. It is always best to begin when the infant is relaxed and quiet, but alert. As with adults, massage isn’t good directly after food. The baby should only be wearing a nappy.

How the baby responds to the initial strokes should determine whether you continue the massage. One long stroke from head to toes should be a good indicator – if the baby becomes distressed in any way, you can try another area first, but if the reaction is the same it is better to leave it until another day.

This video demonstrates lots of great techniques:

Massaging baby’s face and head

Cradling the baby's head in your hands and taking care to avoid the fontanel (the soft spot on the top of the head), start by using your fingertips to massage the scalp, as you would if shampooing the hair. Massage the ears between your fingers.

Trace your fingers around the sides of the baby’s face and using the thumbs, stroke outwards starting between the eyebrows. Taking your thumbs either side of the nose, stroke outwards towards the ears. The jawline can be massages with small circles, using your fingertips.

Massaging the chest and stomach area

Using both hands, stroke outwards from the centre of the chest to the shoulders. Beginning at the bottom of the ribs, stroke in a downwards motion, first with one hand and then with the other. Massage the abdominal area in circular motions using the fingertips.

Next, bring the babys feet and knees together, pressing them softly upwards toward to abdomen, before rotating the hips several times to the right; this action dispels trapped wind.  

Massaging the arms and legs

Holding the baby’s wrist with one of your hands, you can form a C-shape around the top of the arm with your free hand, which allows you to make simple strokes from shoulder to wrist. You can also make a gentle ‘wringing’ motion, using both hands gently from top to bottom of the arm.

The legs can be massaged in the exact same way, and for the feet you can stroke the bottom of the baby’s foot from the heel to the toes. Repeat this on top of the foot, and lightly squeeze and pull the toes. Ankles can be massaged using small circles.

Massaging the baby’s back

When massaging the baby’s back, it is best to place the baby face down in front of you, or on top of your legs, making sure the baby’s hands are out in front and not by the sides. Using both hands, move each hand backwards and forwards, stroking in opposite directions from just below the infant’s neck to its bottom. Make little circular movements with the fingertips up and down the sides of spine, being sure not to press directly onto it. Shoulders can be massaged in a circular motion.

For a qualified therapist, massaging infants only really requires common sense and extra care and attention to the reactions of the infant. No doubt as soon as they are able to talk, they’ll be asking for more!

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