Can Baby Massage Cure Common Newborn Woes?

Khoa Pham on Unsplash

Khoa Pham on Unsplash

Baby massage is one of the most powerful and naturally therapeutic practices, dating back centuries to the Qing dynasty. Today, baby massage has come a long way—many parents know that baby massage can help baby relax, but few know that it is a natural, cure-all for many of the top baby ailments and offers amazing therapeutic benefits including brain, emotional, social, and neural development.

When Your Baby Won’t Sleep
We all know that helping baby sleep independently through the night takes time and patience. Baby massage is a wonderful way to relax baby and create a deeper, longer sleep cycle. The act of massaging your baby triggers serotonin production in baby, which allows their body and mind to settle in for the night. And it’s not just anecdotal evidence. More and more studies have linked baby massage with improved sleep. Tiffany Field, Ph.D. and the director of the Touch Research Institute, found that babies who received a massage from their parents for 15 minutes prior to their bedtime for one month showed a decrease in sleep onset issues and had better quality asleep. In addition, they were more alert and calm throughout their waking hours. This was in comparison to babies that were just read a bedtime story prior to sleeping.  

Baby Massage Tips: Combine massage with a warm baby bath as a daily nighttime ritual. Dim the lights, turn on some relaxing music, and do a full body massage on baby using edible-grade, organic oils such as coconut, sesame, jojoba or avocado oil. You can massage baby while bathing and then continue the massage by placing a warm towel on baby. Continue this ritual for a week and baby will learn to associate sleep with this calming nighttime routine.

When Your Baby Has Gas or Is Constipated
Baby constipation, colic, reflux and gas can pose some of the biggest challenges for new parents. In fact, inspecting baby’s diapers and fretting about their next bowel movement can border on obsessiveness for some families—which is understandable considering that at birth a baby’s digestive tract is still very immature. Expelling gas and poop can be more difficult for some babies, which is why baby massage is so important as a natural way kick start a baby’s digestion. In one study of children with chronic constipation, parents were asked to provide abdominal massage for 20 min per day for a month. The results? Reduced constipation symptoms in 88% of patients, reduced laxative medication use in 58% and an improved diet for 41%.

Baby Massage Tips: Tummy massage and foot reflexology can help alleviate the pressure on the bowels and are very easy to master. The trick is to do these massages proactively and daily so that baby’s digestion is running at full-speed consistently. Start by paddling baby’s tummy with your hands, moving down from top of belly to pelvis. Next, use your finger tips to make circles in a clockwise motion. For the feet, concentrate on the center of the foot and apply medium pressure strokes to the the bottom of the foot with your fingers to help the large and small intestines do their work. You can also help baby by using gentle stretching motion and leg cycling to help their stomach muscles and intestine move more efficiently. Just make sure to wait 30-40 minutes after feeding.

When Your Baby Is Teething
Teething (drooling, fever, sleep disruptions) is a painful stage that all parents and babies will have to deal with. Teething can start anywhere from 3 months and will come and go through the first 2 years of life. While there are many remedies for teething including cold washcloths, over the counter medicine and teethers, teething pain can be naturally alleviated with a simple facial massage that will help babies reduce inflammation in their gums.  

Baby Massage Tips: Babies hold a lot of tension in their face and jaws during teething. To help them relax and reduce teething-related inflammation, make small circles along baby’s jaw with your fingertips from ears to chin. Trace a smile with your index finger encircling their mouth and then working down to the jaw. 

When Your Baby Has Congestion & Has a Cold
There’s no worse feeling than watching your baby struggle with a cold. Massage is ideal for these times because it helps baby expel phlegm, reduce sinus congestion and relieve coughs naturally. Massage is also a natural immunity booster. That means, if performed daily, you will greatly boost your child’s natural immunity that will help them avoid getting sick in the future.

Baby Massage Tips: A gentle facial massage can help loosen and remove any congestion clogging your little one’s sinuses. Simply use two fingers to gently rub the area down the area next to the bridge of baby’s nose. You can also use your fingers to stroke gently around baby’s eyes and right below their eyebrows. Gentle massage of the chest can also help relieve congestion. When massaging the chest, start with the “open book” stroke holding both hands at the center of the chest and stroke out as if you are opening the pages of a book. You can also rub from shoulder to opposite side of chest, which is called the “butterfly” stroke.

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Elina Furman is the Founder & CEO of Kahlmi, the first baby massage tool and educational platform to help promote the mission of baby massage. As a certified infant massage instructor and baby product expert, she is excited to spread awareness of the scientific evidence-based benefits of baby/child massage.  

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