When the massage-woman started coming home after the delivery, I was a little taken aback. She was supposed to massage and bathe the baby and, hold your breath, the mother everyday. Though I didn’t mind removing bits and pieces of clothing to get massaged, which was actually quite painful, I did mind being bathed by this woman I had never seen before.
But, what she did to the baby was quite useful. He seemed to love it and would go off to sleep for a solid two-hour stretch giving me some much-needed time for myself.
I used to watch her finger movements on the little body everyday and wonder whether I could ever do it. But, it did not take long to learn. In a month’s time, I decided I was ready to take over. The trick was to do it gently, so that it exercised the baby’s tiny muscles enough to stimulate him and help circulation without hurting him.
When I started, I realised that the best way to do it is to take your cues from the baby. He tells you which way to go. My son liked to have his thighs massaged – he would giggle as if asking for more. And when I did his back, he would lie still with a pleasurable look on his face as if wanting for it to go on and on forever. These rhythmic movements on the back will help him grow tall, said the massage-woman.
Though I was sure his future height had more to do with the genes he had inherited rather than the back massage, I continued with it because he liked it and helped him sleep.
How to go about it
Use a little oil on your fingers before you start on each part to facilitate the movement of your fingers.
Start with the legs — Pick up the right leg, wrap your hand around the baby’s thigh and slowly stroke it moving towards the foot. When you reach the foot, switch hands, stroking with your left hand. Repeat several times, then switch to the other leg. Try cycling his legs. He will love it.
Foot massage — Use your thumbs to massage the foot moving from the heel to the toe.
Arm and hand massage — Use movements similar to the leg massage with the arms starting with the shoulder. To do the baby’s palm, use your thumb to open it if it is clenched. Roll each finger between your forefinger and thumb gently.
Chest massage — Place both your hands flat in the middle of the baby’s chest. Gently push out to the sides, following the ribs, as if you were smoothing a cloth.
Back massage — Place your baby across your lap, pour a few drops of oil and massage it in by moving your palm gently from the neck to the hips. Repeat it several times.
Face and head — Most children do not like their face or head being fingered. Do it only after your child is a little older and does not mind your fingers going over his face. Using your thumbs, stroke from the center of the forehead out to the temples and then from the chin toward the ears. For the head, use your fingers to make small circles all over his head. But remember to avoid the fontanel.
The ideal time to give a massage is before a bath, though you can try it at any time of the day. During winter, remove clothing from only the portion that is being massaged, so that the child does not catch a cold.
Most children like to be swaddled since it gives them a sense of security. If you remove all the clothing in one swift move, you will be rewarded with a loud wail and the child will not enjoy the massage.