Baby massage is an ancient tradition in Ayurveda, a traditional Indian medicine. The culture of massage was so developed in the Vedic times, that there was a specialized profession for massage therapists, called “Nai”.
According to Ayurveda, infant massage routine is an absolute must for the healthy development of babies especially premature & preterm infants.
Why Infant massage is important?
Psychological benefits: Ayurveda says that there is 2 dimension of the human existence – Mind and the Body. Out of these two, mind is the most important one. In fact, the mind is the real existence; the body is a mere shadow of the mental state. Touch and smell are the two only sense that is fully developed in infants.
These two sensations frame the world around them. In order to stimulate an infant’s mind & feel good, touch and smell are the only 2 routes.
According to modern child psychology, the first 6 months of life are most important for mental development and superior bond with your baby. This is the time when a baby decides whether the world is a safe place for him or not.
Therefore it is advised never to shout or be angry in front of an infant. Baby massage is an excellent method to welcome a new-born. Soft soothing touch of an experienced masseur can provide the infant with the reassurance of safety in the new environment.
Massage or even soothing touch of a mother/parent can stimulate the rapid development of the cognitive ability in babies. Some of the incredible results are early speaking ability, better recognition of facial emotions and emotional response rate.
Physical benefits of massaging your newborn: There are tremendous physical benefits of infant massage. Massage affects all the 3 doshas in the body.
Vata controls the development of the nervous system and the muscles primarily in the body. It also controls the formation of the blood vessels and baby heart rate. With massage, all these developments get a boost in the following manner. Because of the good development of good circulation system, there is better transportation of nutrients and better waste removal through blood. The baby who receives regular massage will develop weight gain, improve circulatory system, especially premature baby.
This will help him to avert multiple diseases in later years, like varicose veins, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia, etc.
Better circulation and the pressing action of massage therapy results in faster development of muscles. The muscles of the baby are better formed and stronger as compared to the babies who do not receive any massage.
Baby massage leads to better nervous development and improved coordination between the sensory and motor response system, help them fall asleep better.
As a natural result of stronger muscles and better nervous system, babies tend to grow much faster and without any troubles. For example, babies subjected to regular massage tend to walk better and faster as compared to their counterparts with no massage.
Pitta controls the digestive process. Massage helps better circulation and boost the digestive system to digest the food better. It also helps to avoid bloating, intestinal cramps and stomach pain, which is a common problem in the babies.
Pitta dosha is also the controlling factor of all kinds of skin related problems. Massage helps to declog the secretory glands in the skin like the sweat glands and the sebaceous glands. These glands are the lifeline of healthy and radiant skin. Massage also stimulates the blood circulation and therefore there is a faster supply of nutrition to the farthest layer of skin. This naturally keeps the skin of the babies nice and supple. In the long term, massage can ensure a permanently smooth and glowing skin.
Kapha is the disease-causing factor in babies as childhood is the Kapha dominated phase of life. Here cough, cold and respiratory problems are the most common ones. Massage helps to balance Kapha and relieve the babies of cough, colds and all the mucus related problems. It helps the babies to drain the mucus from the respiratory system.
Sleep is a function of Kapha, however good sleep is a result of a balance of all the 3 doshas. Massage relax & relieves the muscles of the lactic acid and balances Vata dosha that makes babies hyperactive at night.
Choosing the right Baby Massage Oil
Every child has a different body type, and therefore a different skin type. Therefore, there should be different massage oil for every baby. There are 3 main types of Prakriti or Ayurvedic body types– Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Accordingly, there are 3 main types of skins. General knowledge about the type of baby oil one should use is available but little awareness of the type of skin the child has. The choice of baby massage oil should be ideally based on the type of skin and its distinct requirements.
Identifying Vata Skin in New Born: This type of skin has a great natural tendency towards dryness. And therefore it is more prone to skin disorders related to itching. The best massage oil for Vata skin type is
1. Organic Sesame oil is warm in temperament and helps to pacify both Vata and Kapha. It is the most beneficial oil according to Ayurveda for all health purposes. It is mild in nature and enhances the natural glow of the infant’s body.
Sesame oil also increases the muscular and nervous strength of the baby. Sesame oil has tremendous healing properties according to Ayurveda. Traditionally, it was used for relief from ear-ache, headache, burns, boils, abscess, or any other kind of topical injury. Baby massage with sesame oil ensures that the vulnerable skin of the baby is completely protected.
2. Organic Castor oil is considered to be the best especially. for all Vata disorders. It is warm and light in temperament. It gets absorbed very rapidly in the body. Castor oil is recommended in case of stomach pain or any other kind of a pain in an infant’s body. Since most pains are related to Vata, baby massage with castor oil is the best remedy for all of them. So, in case your baby suffers from frequent colics or intestinal cramps, massage with castor oil is the best option.
Organic Sweet almond oil: is also warm in temperament. It is called Vata-vairi in Sanskrit, which literally means the enemy of Vata. This is a great oil for a Vata dominant skin. Sweet almond oil is esp. good for the development of nerves in the infant’s body. It strengthens the overall nervous systems and enhances the rate of sensory reception and motor response in the baby. Therefore, almond oil is said to be excellent for overall brain development, which is crucial for all babies to achieve!
Pitta Skin: This type of skin is prone to inflammation and all kinds of inflammatory disorders. Skin is the abode of pitta dosha. Therefore almost all kinds of skin disorders can easily erupt in a pitta dominated skin. This kind of skin needs cooling treatment on a daily basis.
1. Shishu Thailam: This is the best oil for Pitta dominant Prakriti and skin type. Extra Virgin Coconut oil, the primary ingredient of Shishu Thailam, is cool in temperament. It is one of the best ingredients to prevent and pacify all kinds of pitta related disorders. Ashwagandha is an excellent nervine tonic. Manjishtha is one of the best blood purifiers.
Most of the pitta related problems happen because of blood impurities. Here Manjishtha is a great preventive herb. Khas is one of the best ingredients and a cooling herb that soothes all kinds of inflammatory responses of the body.
- Organic Extra Virgin Coconut oil: As mentioned above, coconut oil is one of the best oils for all pitta related problems. It keeps the pitta dominant skin cool. It also prevents rashes, boils, redness and swelling in the skin. It is also a very good oil for any kind of itching in the body. The soothing aroma of coconut helps the pitta dominant baby to keep cool and relaxed.
Kapha skin: Kapha skin type is more prone to numbness. However, it is the healthiest skin type that requires the least care in any condition or season. Still, it does require some effort in the development of the nervous system and muscles. Kapha skin type is prone to a sluggish metabolism. Massage with warm oils can stimulate the rate of metabolism in a Kapha dominant baby and ensure rapid overall development.
- Organic Castor oil: This oil acts fast and helps to accelerate blood supply in the Kapha dominant baby. It helps to ensure that the kapha skin gets adequate blood supply and nutrition. Kapha dominant babies are prone to low heat production in the body. Castor oil also prevents cold extremities in the Kapha dominant baby, that might lead to frequent flu and other seasonal disorders.
CHOOSE ORGANIC CASTOR OIL
- Organic Sweet almond oil: Being warm in temperament, it helps to ward off the hypoactivity of kapha skin. Almond oil helps to expand the blood vessels and ensures proper distribution of heat to the outer layers of the skin. Also, it is mild in nature. As mentioned above, it is excellent for overall nervous development.
CHOOSE ORGANIC ALMOND OIL
- Organic Sesame oil: It is an oil that can be universally used because of its balancing effect on all the 3 dosha.
CHOOSE ORGANIC CASTOR OIL
How to massage your baby using oils?
It is important to know suitable oil for your baby’s skin. Apply a small quantity of oil one night before on the toes of infant and leave it overnight. If there is no reaction, it means that the oil is compatible with the infant’s skin. Follow the steps by steps as mentioned below
- Warm the massage oil to a lukewarm and comfortable temperature. Warm oil has a better absorption rate as compared to the normal temperature oil. Warm oil is especially soothing in winter.
- hold your baby & start message with limbs – first baby legs, then hands. Apply the oil generously on the infant’s body. It is better to pour oil on the infant’s body rather than on masseurs hands. It helps to maximize the utilization of massage oil.
- Gently massage the sole/palm, toes and fingers. It is very important as sole/palm, toes and fingers contain a lot of acupressure points. Regular gentle massage can help to stimulate the nervous and hormonal system of the body.
- Massage the limbs by slightly stretching them outwards and away from the body. This helps to strengthen the joints of the limbs.
- After limbs, gently massage the chest and stomach in a circular motion. Then massage by moving hands from the top towards the bottom of the abdomen. Avoid too much pressure on the lower abdominal region, below the spinal cage.
- After the frontal massage, massage the back in a similar motion as applied to the front chest region. Gently press the lowest rib near the buttocks for a few seconds. This helps to relax the entire spine.
- The face should be massaged very gently in circular motion. Make sure to avoid using too much oil in f
- ace massage so that it does not irritate the eyes. Gently massage the head.
Please Note: Avoid putting pressure on the mid-region of the head, as infants have unfused bones in this region. Even a small amount of pressure can hurt the infant’s brain.
Let the oil sit on the infant’s body for 5-10 min. It will help the oil to get properly absorbed. If possible, allow a few minutes of sunbath after the baby massage. It is highly recommended to have mild sunbath after infant massage. Early morning sunrays are the best for this purpose.
Most of the infants tend to develop neonatal jaundice, which is a major problem with the infants. In this disorder, the infant’s liver can be severely affected. Early morning sunbath and massage can moderate the high bilirubin levels in the infant’s blood and successfully prevent neonatal jaundice. Massage helps better absorption of the sunrays and enhance the overall immunity towards this serious skin disorder in newborn.
Excess oil can be wiped away by using cotton cloth before the bath. During winters bath with warm water helps to remove any excess oil left on the infant’s body. In the summertime, try to bath the infant in normal temperature water.
Precautions: It is important that the room is warm and massage should be gentle initially and adjusted to an infant’s capacity. Some babies naturally like heavy duty massage whereas some babies will repel even light and gentle massage. Forceful massage evaporates the psychological benefits of the message to the baby.
Therefore it is important to be observant and personalize the massage techniques according to the endurance and liking of the baby. The wrong massage oil can cause skin disorders like redness, rashes, boils, etc. on the vulnerable skin of the baby.
Oil should be allowed to rest on the skin of the infant for a minimum duration of 5-10 min. it should not wash away immediately. Otherwise, the real benefits of massage oil also will be washed away! It is advisable that babies never bathe without oil massage as oil prevent severe temperature fluctuations in the infant’s body.
Most parents use general soaps available in the market. If possible avoid as they can wash away natural oils from the baby skin. In order to effectively remove the excess oil from infant’s skin, Ayurvedic Ubtan is a great option. Omved Ubtan helps to clear the pores in the skin and helps it to breathe better.
Ideally, soap should never be used on babies skin during a bath. It is like bathing the baby in acid. In case, the soap is required, for example for washing hands after eating, only very mild Ayurvedic soaps should be used.
After the bath use only chemical-free Ayurvedic lotions to replenish the moisture content of the skin. Ayurvedic lotions also protect babies skin from the germs babies are so fond of. It helps to prevent direct contact of skin with the dust, dirt, soil and what not. Also, it will help you relax as your child plays freely in the sand.
It is extremely important to avoid powdering baby after massage and bath. Baby talcs are known to cause an allergic response in the infant’s skin. Also, baby talc is a fine powder. The fine powder of the talc stick to the infant skin and block the sweat glands and other skin-based glands. This might cause pimples, rashes and other skin disorders.
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