Coping with the sensory input from the outside world is a lot for a newborn to manage, which is why baby massage is a beautiful tool in helping your little one handle all of that input and respond in a relaxed manner.
Massage can also help balance our autonomic nervous system, relieving tension built up from all of the stimulation in our baby’s environment. Relieving that tension can help reduce crying and fussiness, and also promote periods of longer sleep.
If you’d like to try massage with your newborn, try following these 10 simple steps.
- Find a time when your baby is relaxed and happy. You are looking for a quiet but alert state. Avoid massaging when a baby is overtired. After waking up from a nap is often a good time to try.
- Set the mood by making the room a comfortable temperature so baby isn’t cold, and dim the lights.
- Everything we put on our baby’s skin gets absorbed into the blood stream so we want to use a single ingredient cold-pressed vegetable or fruit oil for massage. Grapeseed oil is recommended because it absorbs very nicely into the skin, it doesn’t have a strong smell and doesn’t leave a greasy residue.
- Avoid lotions and oils with multiple ingredients, especially those you aren’t familiar with.
- Let go of stress prior to massage. Take a few deep breaths of your own and incorporate some soothing songs.
- Start massaging the soles of baby’s feet and on to legs. Use firm, gentle, slow strokes from heel to toe and then ankle up to thigh and over hip. Always keep one hand on baby.
- Move on to the upper body with your hands on baby’s shoulders. Make gentle strokes in towards the chest, and then massage baby’s arms by stroking from shoulders down towards the wrist. (Avoid getting oil on the hands as they may suck them.) If their tummy feels soft, massage it with circular, clockwise strokes.
- If your little one is still relaxed, you can massage their face and back. Stroke from the middle of baby’s forehead, down the outside of their face and in towards his cheeks. Massage the scalp in small circles. For their back, use long, smooth strokes from head to toe while baby is on their tummy.
- We never want to massage a crying baby. If baby is crying during the massage, stop the massage and rest your hands on baby. If baby continues to cry, it is best to try again another time.
- A short time is enough for the benefits. Think 5-10 minutes.