Baby Massage: Keeping Them Relaxed

How to keep an infant relaxed through massage as well as pointing out the clinical benefits in doing so.

I first read about baby massage a decade ago while pregnant with my first child. It spawned a spurt of research to find out what the benefits were in massaging an infant and what the best techniques were to use. Since then, three more children have been added to my life and I have incorporated what I've learned in the interim between pregnancies to help reduce stress and relax my children. Massage has become a nightly ritual after bath time in our house.

Benefits

The benefits of baby massage are quite substantial and extensive. First, and foremost, is the bond between parent and child that mere touch establishes. Scientific studies have proven that touch aids in physical healing and emotional well being. It also stimulates cognitive abilities such as the development of self-awareness and learning where he or she is in relationship to other objects. Touch has an impact on the nervous system as well. It increases stimuli in which the baby can interact with.

Baby massage is a colic soother and can help with digestion. It affects the circulatory system by increasing the blood flow through the body. Due to the increase in blood flow through the digestive tract, the body is able to absorb more nutrition and expel discomforting gasses.

The pulmonary system can be affected by baby massage. It aids in strengthening the movement of lobes in the lungs that increase the viability of elasticity of the lungs and other inner workings. Because of its influence on the circulatory system, massage increases the blood supply to and through the lungs for a better exchange of gasses.

Increase in blood flow has an effect in the lymphatic system. Lymph is the blood serum without the blood cells and is developed in outer area lymph nodes. Lymph nodes collect lymph, which have migrated through the body via cells. The lymph travel through the body by way of lymph ducts. Lymph ducts map through the body similar to blood vessels and veins. However, instead of joining the circulatory system through veins, lymph meets in the first ventricle of the heart.

Overall, massage is good for general range of motion. It assists in joint mobilization and flexibility by flexing muscles, tendons, and ligaments and moving joints. It enhances physical ability and growth.



It should be stated that massage isn't a cure, nor is more massage better. It should be thought of as a daily vitamin and not a prescribed medication.

Technique

The first thing to remember before you massage your baby is that he or she is a baby and not an adult. Hard or deep tissue pressure is not required, nor recommended.

Lie your infant on his back on a towel or soft blanket either naked or in his diaper. If opting for naked, be sure to keep something to toss on top of any possible bladder eruptions. Apply a dollop of lotion to the palm of your hand, then rub them together. It's a small consideration for your baby since lotion straight from the bottle is usually cold. Rubbing it between your hands warms it up.

Begin with his face. Use one or both of your index fingers to trace a mask around his eyebrows, cheekbones, and the bridge of his nose. The goal is to lift the stress, so when making movements always pull out or circle away from the center of the body. Next, gently use your thumbs, massaging away from his features along his forehead, chin, and cheeks.

The neck is a tricky location and best avoided on younger infants who haven't fully developed control of their muscles. If massaging the area at all, wait until your infant is on his belly. Remember less is more in this instance.

On the rest of the body, use circular motions and long strokes with mild pressure. Start with the shoulders and work your way to his feet. Infants have reflexes such as kicking and clenched fists, so be mindful of them and don't try to force movement.

At the wrists and ankles, you can use a bit of flexing. Point the fingertips and toes, then bend them back to a comfortable angle. Do not try to push too hard and, by all means, if your infant doesn't approve, desist and try a new approach.

If your infant has had or has an umbilical hernia, be careful when massaging the abdomen. You don't want to irritate the area. When you have completed massaging his entire front side, turn him over and repeat the circular motions and long strokes. Don't be timid and skip his rear end. The lumbosacral plexus is located in the buttocks and pelvic region and the area contains a vast amount of muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Remember that you don't have to do an entire massage to help relax your baby. A few simple strokes while holding him or rocking him do wonders to relieve a little stress as well.

After you've completed massaging your baby, diaper him, if naked, wrap him up in a warm blanket or pajamas, and spend a few more minutes cuddling with him. It completes the process with security, especially if trying massage for the first time.

© High Speed Ventures 2011