When I gave birth, my neighbour, a nice woman from Coast was really helpful, we all need such neighbors. She was never shy of being the first one to say hello and to come visit me. One of the few things and tricks she helped me with was how to massage the baby.
She told me to sit at the balcony in the morning just when the sun had come out, strip my baby down and use coconut or olive oil to massage my baby. Now, when your baby is new, that is the last thing you want to hear, because we all feel like they are so fragile and will break. When I finally tried it, which I did just so that I would give her an answer the next time she asked me how the massage has been going, I was sad I never started sooner.
When do you massage your baby?
I used to do it twice a day. After he had his morning milk, we would wait an hour and then go for our ritual. At this time, he is not hungry so he would be calm enough and enjoy the massage and he was not too full which would be uncomfortable. I would do it again after his bath at 6:30 pm. This would relax him well enough and he would black out from then until I woke him up at 10:30 for his first night feed.
Preparing for a massage
It is the cold season now and unlike during the sunny days, we do not have the option of massaging under the sun. So how do you make sure that the baby is warm enough during a massage because you do not what to expose your little one to cold in the name of a massage?
Find a position that’s comfortable, gives you good eye contact with no overhead lights and where your baby is warm.
If you have a heater, you can use it to warm the room. Have water in a bowl or basin so that it is not dry heat that dehydrates. If you do not have a heater, you can massage the baby once during the bath time. After a bath, they are still warm and so a quick massage can be fixed in there somewhere before you dress the baby.
Have everything you need ready so you are not leaving the baby every so often to go look for the next thing you need.
- The oil
- A nappy- to place baby so the towel is not left oily
- Flannel/cloth- to wipe off excess oil or any spills
- Diaper (You can get it delivered to your doorstep by Dial a Diaper)
- Clothes to dress baby afterward
How to massage
- Warm some oil or cream in your hands by rubbing it between your palms.
- Very gently rub it onto your baby’s skin, starting with her legs.
- Legs and feet. Hold your baby’s heel in one hand; with your other hand, start at the top of the thigh and slowly stroke all the way down to the ankle, gently squeezing the leg as you go, as if you were milking a cow. Reverse the motion and go from ankle to thigh. Then rub the feet with your thumbs, gently uncurling and stroking the toes. Switch legs. You can do these same strokes on the arms and hands.
- Head. Start with your hands on both sides of your baby’s head. Run your hands down both sides of his body, from his head to his toes. Next, draw tiny circles on your baby’s head with your fingertips.
- Face. Fold your hands (as if you were praying) on your baby’s forehead and then gently push outward from the center. Next, use your thumb to draw a smile on your baby’s face by stroking from one cheek, across the upper lip to the other cheek. Repeat on the lower lip.
- Chest. Fold your hands on your baby’s chest and push out to the sides, as if you were smoothing the pages of an open book.
- Tummy. With your fingertips, draw an oval below your baby’s belly button. (Move clockwise, to follow the natural path of digestion.) Next, “walk” your fingertips from one side of your baby’s belly to the other, on the diagonal, as if you were making an “X.”
- Back. Stroke his back side to side and then up and down.
- Avoid massage if your baby is unwell, has a temperature, or has just had vaccinations.
- Avoid using oils that are scented, petroleum-based or those that contain nuts.
- When massaging your baby’s arms or legs, always support the ankle or wrist with one hand.
- When massaging your baby’s tummy with a circular motion, go clockwise rather than anti-clockwise.
- If your baby becomes upset or falls asleep, stop massaging.
Talk to the baby as you massage him/her to make her feel comfortable. If she cries, do not give up the massage altogether; try again the next day and the next. Eventually, they get used to it, like it and start enjoying it.
Relaxed mummy equals relaxed baby. If music relaxes you, go ahead and play your favorite soft music and massage to the beat. Remember that massaging increases confidence in your ability to care for and nurture your baby. This is a life-long parenting skill.
Read more on Faith Mwaura’s blog