One way to nurture your baby and show your love and care to him is through massage. Baby massage is done by gently stroking and rubbing your baby’s body and limbs with your hands in a specific way. When massaging your baby, the level of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone produced when you hold or breastfeed him, is increased and will make both of you feel warm and relaxed. You can start massaging your baby with oil after his umbilical cord falls off several days after birth and throughout his first year.
Benefits of baby massage
- Encourage interaction between you and your baby
- Lift your mood as a parent
- Help your baby relax and sleep better
- Reduce crying and fussing
- Relieve colic in babies
- Promotes growth and weight gain for premature babies
Guide to baby massage
- Create a calm, warm and quiet atmosphere before starting the massage.
- Pick a good time, when your baby is relaxed and content (e.g. before his bedtime), but avoid massaging him right after feeding.
- If you prefer to use oil or cream, choose one that is odourless and non-toxic; make sure that your baby has no allergic reaction to the oil.
- Note how your baby responds to your massage; if he is restless or unhappy, stop the massage.
How to massage your Baby
Arms: Wrap your hands around one of his arms and gently squeeze downward to his wrist as if ‘milking’. Then, gently roll his arm between your palms.
Chest: Using both hands, massage the right and left side of his chest in circular motions (like butterfly wings). Then, use your right hand to massage from his upper left chest to his lower right chest, and vice versa using your left hand. Repeat alternately in criss-cross motion.
Face: Using your thumb, massage his face in circular motions. Be careful not to press too hard. Massage his temples, forehead, eyebrows, bridge of his nose, ears, cheeks, around the mouth, and jaw.
Back: Put your baby on his tummy. Massage either side of his spine in small circular motions from the neck down to the buttocks. Apply several long, firm strokes from his shoulders all the way to his feet to finish. Then, you can cuddle or breastfeed him.
Tummy: Place a hand on top of his tummy and gently stroke downward to his hips. Repeat several times with alternating hands. Massaging his tummy can help to relieve gas.
Legs: Repeat the ‘milking’ massage from his thigh to his ankle. Then, gently roll his leg between your palms. Repeat with the other leg.
Massaging your baby is a healthy way to relax and bond with him. This brief article can serve as a guide to baby massaging for you. Consult your doctor if you have any other questions related to baby massaging.
An educational contribution by Malaysian Paediatric Association.
Step by step guide to a soothing & relaxing massage for babies
By Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail, Consultant Paediatrician