Baby Oil Massage - a first year practice for lifelong health

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Warm oil massage isn’t just for adults, it is a wonderful soothing and calming practice for your baby too. In many cultures a baby is massaged daily around bath time as it’s understood that babies are more content, happy and experience better growth when they are massaged. More recently western research has also supported the beneficial effects of infant massage. One of the leading researchers in the U.S. on infant massage is Dr. Field, who thirty years ago personally saw the the calming and positive weight gain effects of oil massage in her premature baby girl. She became inspired to explore the topic further. Since then, she and dozens of others have researched and written about the powerful effects of massage. Benefits include:

  • Improved sleep-wake patterns
  • Improved emotional bonding
  • Enhanced neuromotor development
  • Reduction in gas pains
  • Relief from daily stress that builds up from new encounters
  • Healing effects on birth trauma by soothing strained or pulled muscles
  • Increased weight gain

The overall method is similar to adults, with the exception of emphasizing use of your palms with gentle pressure more than fingers. The overall sequence moves from the head to the toes. Similar to abhyanga in adults, we use circular movements on the joints and organs, and long strokes on the long bones. Remember to keep the room warm, and calming (no blaring TV or bright lights). Gently warm the oil by placing the oil bottle in a pan or bowl of very warm or hot water, but be sure to test the oil to ensure it is only lukewarm before application. The best oils include organic sesame, coconut, almond, bala, or jojoba. Our personal favorite is Ashvagandha/Bala as it imparts strength and calming, you can get it here. Have fun with with this! Some nights you may be able to get a nice 10 minute massage in, and other nights it might be one minute with a drop of oil. We do our best! photo 2 General Sequence:

  • Scalp:
    • Circle top, back & sides of head with palm (be careful not to press on the fontanel)
    • Massage outer parts of ears up and down
    • Move across the forehead and around the temples & cheeks, sides of the nose, and upper chin
  • Neck & shoulders, arm:
    • Move around the neck and shoulders gently down the torso
    • Make figure eight patterns around the chest
    • Massage the arms using long strokes along the muscles and circular motions at the joints
  • Belly:
    • Massage the belly in a clockwise direction to soothe the stomach
  • Back:
    • Rub the back by running the palms along the spine
  • Legs & Feet :
    • Sweep down the legs with circular strokes at the joints, and long strokes along the muscles
  • Feet:
    • Massage up and down the tendons, heels, and top of the foot
    • Rub the sole of the foot in a long motion with the palm

Optional: After the massage, make a paste of chickpea  or almond flour and warm milk and massage this over baby’s body to absorb excess oil (this will make the bath easier). Then you can fill a regular tub or large sink part way with water and support your baby with one hand, rinsing with your other hand. If your baby is old enough to sit propped in a baby tub or basin simply bathe her/him as usual in this way. You won’t need any soap unless you prefer to soap baby’s bottom  … Resources: 1) 2) Field T., Diego, M., Hernandez-Reif, M. (2010) Preterm Infant Massage Therapy Research: A Review. Infant Behavioral Development 33(2): 115-124. 3) 4) Welch, C., Blossom, S., (2011) Mother Nurture: Yoga and Ayurveda for Postpartum Bliss. 5) Oaks, Y. Sacred Window School.