Infant Massage – Ten Steps to a More Peaceful Baby

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  • May 09, 2004

sleeping babyGiving your baby an infant massage can help baby relax and drift off to sleep.
Have you ever had a massage? The lights are low, soft music gently floats through the air, your thoughts drift as you sink onto a decadently covered surface where you delve into relaxation and begin to part with all of your daily tensions . . .

Wow – That was GREAT! Why shouldn’t we offer the same comfort to our babies? Massage has been around for thousands of years to aid in rest and relaxation. Today, we often think of massage as a modern-day stress-reliever, but if we go back to the roots of massage, we can find many benefits to sharing this age-old tradition with our baby.

When getting ready to massage your baby, make sure everything you need is at your finger tips: a pillow; a waterproof pad; two fluffy bath towels; baby oil, vegetable oil, or a specially formulated baby massage oil (make sure it is formulated just for babies as other oils can be too strong and irritating for young skin). You can set up on the floor or a changing table. Use a soothing soft voice when speaking to your baby and make sure you tell your baby before you touch her, ensuring her of what you plan on doing each step of the way. Build your baby’s tolerance to massage with a few movements lasting only two or three minutes at a time. Within a few weeks, you can work up to twenty minutes and often times, will have an eager, happy baby on your hands!

Article adapted from Melinda Blau and Tracy Hogg’s book, Secrets Of The Baby Whisperer.

1. Prepare the room you plan to use for your infant massage.

The temperature in the room should be about 75 degrees, with no drafts. Put on soft music. Your massage area should consist of a waterproof pad placed on top of a pillow, which is then covered by a soft bath towel.

2. Prepare yourself mentally to commit to this time with your baby.

Turn off the ringer and let the machine pick up the phone. Begin by washing your hands and soothing your baby with a soft voice. Use this time to tell her what you plan on doing and how much you’re going to enjoy this special time with her. Put a teaspoon or two of oil in your hands and rub your palms together to warm it.

3. You will begin your baby’s massage at her feet and work your way up to her head.

Make sure you continue talking to her throughout the massage, letting her know what to expect. The soothing sound of your voice will become a trigger for her relaxation.

4. Begin with her feet and use a thumb-over- thumb movement – one thumb rubs the foot upward, taking turns with the other thumb, which moves in the same direction.

Gently stroke the sole of the foot, heel towards toe. Delicately squeeze each to

e. Massage the top of the foot towards the ankle, making small circles around the ankle. As you go up the leg, gently use what Blau and Hogg refer to as the “rope twist”: wrap your hands loosely around your baby’s legs. As you move your top hand toward the left, move your bottom hand toward the right, gently and softly massaging her skin and muscles, thereby increasing leg circulation.

5. Next, with you hands on your baby’s stomach, make gentle sweeping motions outward.

Using both thumbs, gently massage from the belly button toward the outside. “Walk” your fingers from the stomach to the chest.

6. Next move to her chest where Blau and Hogg suggest making a “sun- and-moon” motion by using both of your index fingers to trace a circle – the “sun” – that starts at the top of your baby’s chest and ends around her belly button.

Now take your right hand and go back up, tracing a “moon” (a backwards “c”) up to the top of her chest; then do the same with your left hand (a forward “c”). Repeat this a few times. Then do a heart-shaped movement – with all of your fingers on the chest, at the center of the breastbone, gently trace a heart, ending at her belly button.

7. Now move on to her arms and hands by using the “rope twist” method, then do open-hand massage on both arms.

Delicately roll each finger. Make small circles on the top of each wrist.

8. Next move to her face, being extra careful with this sensitive area.

Remember to use your soothing voice as you begin to massage her forehead and eyebrows, and then gently use your thumbs to massage around the eye area. Go down the bridge of your baby’s nose, back and forth across her cheek, from her ears toward her upper and lower lips and then back. Make small circles around the jaw and behind the ears. Rub her earlobes and under her chin. Now gently turn her over.

9. Next, roll her gently over and get ready to make circles on the back of your baby’s head and shoulders.

Using a back-and-forth motion, stroke her up and down. Make small circles along the back muscles and allow your hands to travel the full length of her body, from the top of her back all the way down to the ankles.

10. End your infant massage by telling your baby how much you love her and this special time you have had together.

If you begin to repeat these steps, increasing the duration of the massage, your baby will begin to look forward to this expereince with you . Never continue with a massage is she cries or become fussy. If this happens, let a few weeks go by, and then try again for a shorter time. You have the power to acclimate your baby to the joy and healing powers of touch. With this will come a more relaxed baby, and an ability to instantly put your baby at ease. Relax and enjoy!

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photo credit: Adam Piotrowski via photopin cc

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Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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