Infant massage tips
Here’s what to keep in mind before you (or your partner) lay your hands on your newborn:
- Make massage your babies part of your daily routine. Consider massaging your baby around the same time every day so that he comes to expect and enjoy it. What time’s best? There’s no “best” time, really. In general, you want to choose a time when you’re not feeling rushed (so don’t try to squeeze in a squeeze session while dinner’s cooking or you’ve got the washer and dryer going) or when your baby isn’t hungry (since he won’t enjoy the belly rubs if his belly’s empty) or too full (he’ll likely spit up his supper — you won’t make that mistake twice!).
- If you’re using massage oil, choose one that’s edible, unscented, and either a cold-pressed fruit or vegetable oil. Sure, you don’t need oil to rub your little one the right way, but it’ll be more pleasant for both of you if your hands glide more easily over your baby’s body. Good options include coconut, canola, corn, olive, grape seed, apricot, avocado or safflower oils. These oils are easily absorbed into a baby’s skin — and easily digested when your little one sucks on his hands or fingers. Only use a dab and stay away from baby oil or mineral oil — they clog the pores. And nix nut oils too because of the potential for allergies.
- Pick an area that’s comfortable for both of you, and warm — at least 75° F — so your nearly naked newborn doesn’t catch a chill while he’s chilling from your massage. You can massage your little one on the changing table, your bed (put a towel underneath to avoid oil stains on your comforter), even on the rug (use a towel there too). Add some soothing background music or simply use the time to talk and sing to your baby.
- Follow your baby’s cues. No one likes to be massaged when they’re not in the mood, and that’s true for your baby as well. If he turns away or frowns or cries when you lay your hands on, save the session for later. And remember, you don’t have to give a full-body massage every time. If your baby decides he’s had enough after you’ve rubbed his legs and feet, that’s okay too.
- Be gentle — and don’t apply too much pressure or it will be overpowering. Another smart tip from the infant massage playbook: Stroking away from the heart (from shoulder to wrist, for example) is relaxing, and therefore better suited for pre-nap or pre-bedtime massages. Stroking toward the heart (from wrist to shoulder) is more stimulating and better suited for when your baby will be awake and active. You can also do a combo.