MOMS, HERE’S HOW YOUR FINGERS CAN WORK WONDERS
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!