We demon­strate a few tips to suc­cess­fully mas­sage your baby and create a healthy bond


The prac­tice of baby mas­sages in our In­dian so­ci­ety is as prim­i­tive as it is pop­u­lar. El­ders in the fam­ily and even well wish­ers, ad­vo­cate this ther­apy to new mums, as part of a long list of dos and don’ts, which ought to be fol­lowed for the whole­some rear­ing of chil­dren and even aid in the care of a new mother. Ruchira Dutta, a Kolkata-based mother to a three-year-old boy named Varun, nar­rates how she found her­self stuck be­tween the age-old mid­wife mas­sage, rec­om­mended by her mother-in-law and her doc­tor’s ad­vice that di­rected oth­er­wise. Now the ques­tion re­mains: do mas­sages ben­e­fit in­fants or not? Let us look at it through an em­pir­i­cal lens. “I en­cour­age mas­sages,” con­firms Dr Nikky Me­hta, the pae­di­atric res­i­dent at Dr Bal­ab­hai Nana­vati Hospi­tal, Mum­bai. “How­ever, the baby should be mas­saged only by a fam­ily mem­ber, prefer­ably his mother or fa­ther,” Dr Nikky adds. He strictly ad­vises against mas­sages by mid­wives or nan­nies. This is be­cause mid­wives do not know the right tech­nique of mas­sag­ing, and there­fore, can do more harm than good. “An in­fant’s legs are in a flexed po­si­tion for the first few months af­ter birth. If one pushes them firmly or tries to straighten them, it can cause mi­nor frac­tures. Sim­i­larly, putting pres­sure on breasts can lead to swelling and ab­scess devel­op­ment,” Dr Nikky ex­plains. Ask your doc­tor about the med­i­cally-ap­proved way to mas­sage your child, pay­ing close at­ten­tion to the pres­sure points and sen­si­tive ar­eas. At­tend­ing a how-to ses­sion per­formed by a trained nurse, is an ideal way to un­der­stand this process.

Here’s why you should mas­sage your new­born

Baby mas­sages play a vi­tal role in nur­tur­ing your in­fant as it comes with a host of ben­e­fits. Ac­cord­ing to Dr Suresh Bi­ra­j­dar, con­sul­tant pae­di­a­tri­cian and neona­tol­o­gist, Nana­vati Su­per Spe­cial­ity Hospi­tal, Mum­bai, “Mas­sage im­proves blood cir­cu­la­tion, re­sult­ing in re­lax­ation of the body and ton­ing of mus­cles. This not only im­proves di­ges­tion and

bone strength, but also en­hances brain-body com­mu­ni­ca­tion in in­fants, in turn, op­ti­mis­ing their mo­tor re­sponses. It is es­pe­cially pro­posed in cases where the child suf­fers from Colic – pain in the ab­domen.” Ex­plain­ing fur­ther, Dr Suresh says, “Mas­sages have been as­so­ci­ated with healthy weight gain, as they en­cour­age the pro­duc­tion of the growth hor­mone, in­sulin. It has proved help­ful in the growth and devel­op­ment of pre­ma­ture and low birth weight ba­bies.” Well, that’s not just it! The magic of mas­sages ex­tend to a baby’s emo­tional well-be­ing too. “Mas­sage is a form of touch ther­apy that ini­ti­ates a sense of com­fort and se­cu­rity,” ex­plains Dr Suresh. This sooth­ing touch raises the level of the feel-good hor­mone Oxy­tocin, in both the baby and mother, which has proven to fight post­na­tal de­pres­sion too.” He fur­ther adds, “Through mas­sage, a mother can es­tab­lish and strengthen the bond be­tween her and the baby.” Mum­bai-based Ar­chana Iyer, mum to four-yearold Aditri, en­dorses this ther­apy by shar­ing her ex­pe­ri­ence. “Mas­sage is mummy-baby time for us! It makes her very happy as she thinks that we are play­ing, help­ing us feel con­nected. Ad­di­tion­ally, it makes her sleep well af­ter her bath, which leaves her ac­tive through­out the rest of the day.” “The lack of an af­fec­tion­ate touch has shown to re­sult in de­layed at­tach­ment with par­ents, even caus­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tur­bances in in­fants,” warns Dr Suresh. There­fore, it is vi­tal to give your baby a lov­ing and com­fort­ing touch. It will help build your child’s trust in you and

will boost your con­fi­dence in han­dling your new­born, too. It has also proven to be a great aid in nur­tur­ing strong con­nec­tions be­tween a child and his work­ing par­ents.

This is the right time for baby mas­sages

Mas­sage a hun­gry baby and he will make sure that he shows his an­noy­ance. A rub­down right af­ter feed­ing, on the con­trary, might make the baby vomit. “Mas­sage should be given to ba­bies when they are ac­tive and alert, ideally an hour or two af­ter feed­ing,” says Dr Suresh. Look for signs to en­sure that your lit­tle one is hav­ing a de­light­ful time. Joy­ful vo­cal sounds, suck­ing move­ments of lips, hand clasp­ing and an easy breath­ing pat­tern, are some of the ev­i­dent signs show­ing that your baby ap­proves. Dr Suresh ad­vises, “One should co­or­di­nate the hand mo­tion with the baby’s move­ments, if the baby moves dur­ing the mas­sage.” More­over, you can’t carve a ful­fill­ing time for your baby if you are not re­laxed your­self. Free your sched­ule when you plan to give him a mas­sage, so that you are not dis­tracted and can fully ded­i­cate your­self to­wards this ther­a­peu­tic ses­sion. A full body mas­sage for a baby can be com­pleted within 15-20 min­utes. You can start mas­sage ther­apy soon af­ter your child’s birth. How­ever, in the case of pre­ma­ture de­liv­er­ies, one should wait till the baby reaches her due date and start mas­sages only af­ter con­sult­ing the doc­tor. Choose your mas­sage oil care­fully The oil you pick will play an in­her­ent role in these mas­sages as it will un­avoid­ably come in di­rect con­tact with your child’s soft and sen­si­tive skin. There­fore, this needs to be a very cau­tious choice. “The In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of In­fant Mas­sage rec­om­mends that ba­bies should be mas­saged with a high qual­ity, prefer­ably or­ganic, cold-pressed veg­etable oil. These oils are pro­duced by me­chan­i­cally press­ing veg­eta­bles, fruit, seeds, or nuts at a low tem­per­a­ture,” says Dr Su­mana Baner­jee, ob­ste­tri­cian at Aakash Health­care Su­per Spe­cial­ity Hospi­tal, Mum­bai. Dr Su­mana ex­plains, “These oils have no added scent which can oth­er­wise mask a par­ent and baby’s nat­u­ral body odour that plays as an im­por­tant el­e­ment in bond­ing.” Fur­ther­more, these are ed­i­ble oils. So, even if the child puts his hands in his mouth, it will not cause any harm. Co­conut and olive are the most pre­ferred choices. What’s more, fol­low the ba­sics: cut your nails, clean your hands and make sure it makes you and your pre­cious lit­tle gem happy!

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