Baby Massage to Help Relax Your Baby into Sleep
There are very few things more relaxing than a massage. Giving babies massages has been proven to not only help them relax, but has shown to improve their sleep habits. By relaxing them before bedtime, they can fall into a deeper sleep sooner. It can also help with colicky babies.
Studies have shown that massage has helped premature babies gain more weight quicker. According to one study, "preemies who were massaged three times daily for ten days gained almost 50 percent more weight, were more active and alert and were able to leave the hospital six days earlier than other premature infants" (Nelsson-Ryan). Physical contact is so important, especially in the first few weeks, before babies are able to see well.
There are places that offer training in infant massage, as well as videos. However, a few simple techniques are all you need to get started. You can use baby lotion, or natural oils such as almond or vegetable oil with natural fragrances added. You shouldn't use the oil on the head or face area.
First, be sure the baby is not too fussy and able to lay still, about an hour after a feeding. Some recommend removing everything, including the diaper. However, you may want to leave the diaper on to avoid any accidents until you massage the stomach.
Find a safe, soft place where the baby won't roll off onto the floor. Be sure that the room is at a comfortable temperature. Lay the baby on the back, and smile and talk gently while you do the massage.
Start with the head and face, using only as much pressure as you would use if you were to press on your eyelid without causing discomfort. Work from the forehead to the top of the head, moving in gentle strokes. Move from the center toward the outside and back.
Carefully work your way down the neck and shoulders area, again using very light pressure. Work on each arm by making a ring from your thumb and finger, sliding down the arm. Roll the arm gently between your hands. Massage the hands and fingers as well.
Then, massage gently down the stomach area, in circles. If you've had the diaper on, remove it to expose the stomach and then replace it before you begin the legs. Work down each leg, similar to the way you did the arms. Gently bend the legs toward the stomach. This can help gas bubbles that may be trapped to move out. This also helps with the colicky babies.
Once you finish with the legs and feet, turn the baby over and start from the back of the head and work your way down to the feet again. Do not actually massage the spine area. You can make gentle circles with your fingertips on the back. Complete the massage down to the toes again.
Some babies will only want a couple of minutes of massage to start with. Once the baby gets used to the massage, you can increase the time spent. It may soon become the favorite part of the day. This is something that both the mother and father can share in with the baby, creating a special bond.
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