Through various studies conducted globally in various locales such as Korea, Philippines, China, the Touch Research Institute of the University of Miami, and even our very own Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM), it has been shown that infant massage can benefit your baby. These benefits include better nutrient absorption, helps relieve stress (by reduction of the stress hormone cortisol), improves the bond between parent and child, helps premature newborns gain weight faster (hence reducing the cost of hospital stay), reduces the intensity and duration of colic in babies, and eases the transition to sleep for babies with sleep problems.
Other purported benefits that have yet to be documented include claims of better psychosocial development of the child and how baby massage minimises the occurrence of night waking.
Massaging your little one is a simple yet rewarding experience. Just allocate 10-15 minutes of your time for this, but be sure to choose a time when you won’t be rushing and your baby is quiet but alert. An excellent time to massage him is after his bath, but you can do it at any time as long as it is not after a feed.
A quick checklist before starting:
- Ambience: check the room to ensure that it is comfortably warm. You can play soothing music if you like, but keep the volume low.
- Safety: remove any jewellery (e.g. rings, bracelets, etc.) that may interfere during the massage.
- Comfort: have a blanket handy to keep baby warm. Do not massage immediately after a feeding, but wait for at least two hours before starting.
- Cleanliness: Wash your hands before starting and make sure your fingernails are short.
Massaging your little one
With your baby in his diapers, lay him face-up on a flat surface that is covered with something soft, like a towel or blanket. Cover the areas that are not being massaged with a light blanket. During the massage, engage your baby by talking or singing to him. Try to maintain eye contact as much as possible.
Once you are ready to start, moisten your hands with a mild lotion/oil and warm them up by rubbing them together. This will prevent friction as baby’s skin is very sensitive. However, you can also massage him without any oil or lotion. Keep your massage strokes firm with gentle pressure. Avoid the ticklish type of touch at all costs, after all, you want to massage your little one, not tickle him! You can turn your massage session into a routine by doing it at the same time every day, such as right after his bath.
Step 1 – Face Massage
Massage his face with circular motions using the tips of your thumbs. Use just enough pressure to dimple the skin slightly, but be careful not to press too hard. Massage his temples, forehead, eyebrows, cheeks, bridge of his nose, around the mouth, jaw, and ears.
Step 2 – Chest Massage
Chest massage involves two movements:
1) Moving both hands in circular motions over both left and right (like butterfly wings).
2) Criss-crossing from lower right to upper left and vice-versa.
Step 3 – Arm Massage
This should be done one arm at a time. Hold his wrist firmly in one hand while you gently ‘milk’ his arms from the shoulders down toward his wrist. Finish up by reversing the motion.
Step 4 – Leg Massage
This should also be done one leg at a time. Use gentle ‘milking’ motions to massage from his hips down toward his ankle. Finish up by reversing the motion.
Step 5 – Tummy Massage
The tummy muscles need to be relaxed by flexing his knees to his chest for a few seconds. The paddlewheel and clockwise massage on his abdomen helps to relieve gas.
Step 6 – Back Massage
Use smooth, stroking motions to massage him from the neck toward his buttocks. Make sure you do not put any pressure on the spine.
Be sensitive to baby
Throughout the massage, you must remain alert to your baby’s moods. If he shows any discomfort, fusses, or cries, it may be his way of telling you to stop. Take your cues from baby and go from there. After all, it’s all about deepening the bond between you and your baby. It is also a very useful method for fathers to connect more intimately with baby. If you are still unsure of how to proceed, speak to your paediatrician or go online to http://www.johnsonsbaby.com/baby-skin/massage-techniques for more information.
An educational contribution by Malaysian Paediatric Association.