Since massage can provide relief from stress and relax your baby, you should consider using different infant massage techniques to keep your baby calm. In many cultures, parents also massage their infants to promote bonding between the baby and the parents.
Benefits of Massage
The positive skin-on skin contact between parent and infant has positive physical, emotional and developmental advantages that are often observed when the baby reaches adulthood. Regular massage makes a baby calmer, helps the child sleep better and promotes alertness during waking hours. Babies prone to constipation and colic also benefit through regular massage. Studies have shown that regularly massaged infants gain weight faster, reach mental and motor skill milestones quickly and become more sociable and pleasant.
Preparing the Room for the Massage
It's best to massage your baby before a bath. You should ensure that the room is warm and that the atmosphere is conducive to relaxation. Music can help in this regard. You may choose to use oil when you massage your baby. However, be sure to select oil that's specially formulated for infants as babies are likely to put their fingers into their mouth. A light olive oil or almond oil is ideal for this purpose.
Place a mat on the floor and sit on the mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Place your baby on your legs so that his legs are near your torso and his head is closer to your knees. Your baby should initially be placed on his back. Pour a little oil into your palm and rub it with long, slow and rhythmic strokes into your baby's skin. The pressure of your palms should be firm and stimulating but not painful. Talking while you massage can help strengthen the parent-baby bond.
When you massage your baby's head and face, hold the head with both hands and massage the scalp with your fingertips. Massage behind the ears using the thumb and forefinger. You should stroke gently with your thumbs. Areas that should be covered include the eyelids, the cheeks, and the area between the eyebrows and the bridge of the nose.
Hold both your baby's knees close together and lift them towards his abdomen a few times. Then, place your hand on his stomach and gently massage from one side to the other. All the movements should be in the direction of the heart and never away from the heart.
Hold your baby's wrist and massage his arm moving upwards towards his shoulder. Also massage the palms by moving your thumb down his fingers.
Hold your baby's ankles and massage his legs by using upward movements towards his thighs. Use circular movements of your thumb and fingers to stimulate the legs.
Turn your baby over and use the heel of your palm to massage his back, starting from his buttocks.You should take at least 20 minutes to complete the massage and once the massage is over, bathe him by which time he will be pleasantly tired and ready for his nap. There are several books and videos available that teach you proper techniques for infant massage. You can also visit your local baby center or hospital to learn a few massage tips and techniques.