Parents have an intuitive instinct to touch and move their new baby, either for comfort, play, or to show love and affection. The technique of massage is a purposeful extension of this innate behavior and is a valuable activity to improve mobility and aid in relaxation. As baby grows its body adapts from the fetal position in the womb, to stretching its’ muscles and coordinating its’ movements. Massage will not only help aid in joint and muscle mobility, but also increase relaxation of the baby. Studies conducted on premature babies, those exposed to drugs in utero, and infants with motor control challenges all showed improvements in weight gain, neurological development, and digestion following massage.
Positive outcomes of infant massage include:
- Infant relaxation;
- Increases bonding between the parent and infant;
- Assists in growth and development;
- Communication and the awareness of non-verbal cues by parents; and
- Aids in sleep.
Infant massage is so simple and needs nearly no equipment.
- Oil – any food grade healthy oil (ie. Coconut oil); and
- Comfortable surface.
Do not preform massage when the baby:
- Has a fever;
- Is hungry;
- Has an open sore/trauma;
- Has had immunizations within the last 48 hours; or
- Abdominal work after feeding.
It is also important not to massage when the baby is showing signs of distress or negative cues such as: arm waving, pushing, head turning, lack of eye contact, increased respiration and crying.
A fun example to try:
Abdominal Massage Technique for Gas/Digestion/Constipation:
All strokes should try to end in the lower left quadrant of the belly, which is where the colon takes an “S” shape and exits the body.
- Full Moon, Half moon: move one hand in a clockwise direction and follow with the other hand. Use a flat hand to do so. This will start to stimulate the colon.
- I Love U technique:
- (1) I – On the left side of the infants belly make a downward stroke with your hand
- (2) LOVE – Make an upside-down “L” moving from the upper right quadrant of the infants belly to the left side under the ribcage and down to the lower right quadrant.
- (3) U – Make an upside down “U” from the lower right quadrant up the right side of the belly, under the rib cage and down the left side of the belly.
- Repeat each motion a few times while repeating the words “ I love you”. Baby will love this and show you signs of attention.
Abdominal treatment example:
Repeat a few times. Baby can be cuddled in your arms, or laying on their back or side.
- Full Sun, Half Moon;
- Fingertip walking – from right to left side;
- Fingertip kneading – from right to left side;
- I love you;
- Leg pumping;
- Leg shaking;
- Full Sun, Half Moon.
There are many resources on line to help further your knowledge of infant massage, and explain the techniques above. Courses can be offered through Registered Massage Therapists in town as well as through Interior Heath. Please feel free to reach out with any questions.
Paula Jasper Med, RMT Part 4 – Infant Massage Course