I began using infant massage on my oldest daughter, Joce, long before it was the mainstream thing to do. She always had a very finicky stomach and was put on a medicinal regimen at two weeks old for severe gas and constipation. I felt so bad for her, but I was even more nervous about giving her medication at such a young age. With a little mother’s intuition and some Internet research (which was quite a feat, thank you dial-up :)), I went on a mission to find natural ways to relieve her symptoms and help us both feel better.
Although this article deals with infant massage, anyone (including pets!) can benefit from massage. Everyone loves a good body rub!
According the know-it-all Internet hub Wikipedia, “Infant massage is a type of complementary and alternative treatment that uses massage therapy for human infants. This therapy has been practiced globally, and has been increasingly used in Western countries as a treatment for infants…”.
From my experience, infant massage helps soothe your child and provides the opportunity to connect with your little one on a more personal level. A simple touch can break down emotional walls, heal hearts and works wonders on physical health (stress, tension, aches and pains).
Below is a general list of benefits of infant massage and the issues it can remedy:
- Helps baby feel loved
- Promotes better sleep
- Facilitates body awareness
- Boosts immune system
- Sensory stimulation
- Improves skin condition & blood circulation
- Helps digestion
- Balances respiration
- Relief for teething pains
- Helps you learn about your baby
- Stimulates production of oxytocin
Infant massage is also a great time to introduce essential oils. Essential oils are natural aromatic compounds extracted from botanical materials, such as plants, flowers, seed, etc. These materials have been used for centuries for their medicinal and therapeutic benefits. Be aware there are certain safety precautions to follow when using essential oils, such as never to use pure, undiluted essential oils on the skin. It is important to research essential oils and different scent combinations to determine what is safe and most beneficial for your child.
There is never a bad time to offer a massage, but it is definitely most beneficial when your child is experiencing symptoms of discomfort or fussiness. I used infant massage for my oldest daughter Joce as a way to soothe her gassy tummy, and it worked! Lily, the baby-baby, got the hands on approach to help soothe her to sleep, which in turn helped my physical and spiritual health.
A quiet spot in the home is nice, but not necessary. If you have multiple children or are in a situation where relief is needed immediately but there are lots of distractions (family visiting from out of town or a play date), try your best to find a quiet corner, lower the lights (if you can) and speak in a soothing tone. If other children are present, find a low key activity to occupy their time, or promise them they will be next in line for a massage if they can keep the noise level down (worked on my kids most the time!).
If you are out in public, a simple shoulder, back or hand massage can work wonders to calm children with social anxiety, sassy attitudes, or general symptoms of not feeling well.
I am not an expert, but I’ve been around the baby soothing block a few times. Here’s what worked for me:
- Get in the zone. Be mentally prepared to remain calm so you can effectively calm your child. Chances are if you have a cranky kiddo on hand, you may need to take a few more deep breaths to get into your zen place. Breathe deep and pre-sniff any essential oils you have on hand.
- Make sure baby is comfy. I always massaged my girls in just a diaper (when able). Lay down a soft towel that you don’t mind getting residue on from any oils or lotions you use. Also, have a soft blanket on hand to cover any exposed parts of baby to make sure they stay warm and cozy.
- Research and pinpoint problem areas. Find out (or use your mama’s intuition to figure out) what areas need the most attention for illness care and address those areas thoroughly. For general soothing, relaxation and bonding, massage anywhere that makes baby happy! I found Lily’s favorite spot was her thighs and calves. I would do a soothing rub down of her arms, stomach, back and skull base, but I’d finish up with her legs. She would fall asleep right there on the floor. Success!
- Fine tune your approach. You won’t always end up with a sleeping baby or even a happy baby, but don’t give up. Keep trying new ways to apply a healing, loving touch until you find what works for you both. I found spending time with my daughters, quietly and calmly, sometimes helps me more than it helps them.
It’s never too late to start loving and caring for your child(ren) using massage. If you feel like you and your family could benefit from infant and toddler massage, don’t wait! Start today!
What techniques have you used to help soothe your baby? Do you have experience with infant massage? If so, please share!