Baby massage is very important for the mental as well as physical health of a baby. It has significant effects for improving physiological and psychosocial functions of babies. It increases blood circulation, which helps to improve digestion and overall growth of the child. It increases muscle tone and nourishes the skin and underlying tissues. People commonly use coconut oil, olive oil and mustard oil for baby massage. Ayurvedic baby massage is different from the regular massage. It includes the use of special medicated ayurvedic oils. These medicated oils are more beneficial effects for improving overall health and strength of muscles than these un-medicated oils.
Ayurvedic science has prescribed the baby massage with a scientific approach for improving the physical and emotional health of the infant. It increases the strength, improves skin health and stimulates the growth and development of babies. It also has an influence on immunity. Research studies have suggested that baby massage has immunomodulatory effects. It improves immune response and increases non-specific immunity.
In addition to general benefits, ayurvedic baby massage is also indicated in the treatment of the following health conditions:
- Development delay (delayed milestone).
- Rickets (along with internal medicine).
- Infant sleep problems or trouble sleeping.
- Cerebral palsy.
- Muscular dystrophy.
- Dry skin.
- Recurrent skin infections.
- Mental stress (especially, in older children).
Ayurvedic Baby Massage Benefits
Across the whole world, there are different practices for child care. The most people use lubricants and moisturizing creams or lotion etc. on the baby’s skin. These practices are not providing any significant benefits except moisturization.
Ayurvedic infant massage is not only beneficial for the skin moisturization, but it is also beneficial for preventing several diseases and providing strength to the baby’s body. It also improves parent-child bonding, skin health and sleep. Let’s have an in-depth insight into the benefits of ayurvedic baby massage:
Regain Strength and Vitality
During the birth process, a baby experiences exhaustion, pain and loss of energy. Newborn massage helps to regain the strength and vitality. It soothes the skin and induces relaxation. It also helps the baby to recover from physiological jaundice more quickly than babies who don’t get a newborn massage, a study suggested.
The infant massage increases blood circulation to the different parts of the body, which also improves digestion. It improves appetite and reduces digestive problems in infants.
Ayurvedic baby massage improves sleep due to its soothing effects on the body and relaxing effects on the brain.
Enhances the Skin Health
Massage stimulates the skin and promotes tissue repair. It is the best way to provide moisturization to the skin. It also removes dead cells from the skin and improves skin texture.
Improves Physical Health in Cerebral Palsy
The study concluded that massage reduces spasticity, rigid muscles and contractions of hand and feet in children with cerebral palsy. It improves fine and gross motor functions in the baby.
Ayurvedic Medicated Oils & Their Benefits in Baby Massage
There are different ayurvedic oils used in baby massage. Each provides additional benefits to the baby according to its properties.
Ayurvedic medicated oils are more suitable and likely safe for the skin because they are prepared using different herbs. The preparation methods involve anticipation of heat, which removes yeast, fungus and bacteria. These oils are best for massage than chemically processed oils, refined or purified oils.
Let’s discuss the benefits of each ayurvedic oil used in infant massage:
Bala oil is the best oil for child massage. You can start massage of a newborn baby with this oil. It prevents hypothermia, nourishes the skin and underlying tissues and strengthens muscles. The massage with Bala Tail also improves growth.
A study reported that Massage with Bala Tail also helps to prevent physiological weight loss. It significantly improves the weight of babies than coconut oil.
Ashwagandhadi Tail can be used when the baby is physically weak and has less muscular strength than other babies of the same age. It improves muscular strength, tones the muscles and increases the overall strength of the body.
Its main indication is a weakness. So, it is mainly used for improving strength and vitality. According to ayurveda, it is most suitable for babies having Vata Body Type.
Chandanbala Laxadi Oil
According to ayurveda, it is the best oil for babies with delicate, pink or reddish skin and having Pitta Body Type.
If the baby gets rashes with other skin care products or oils or if baby hands and feet are warm to touch in the most of time, then this oil is considered best.
All other benefits are like Bala Tail.
This oil can also be used by people having Kapha Body Type.
Bala Ashwagandha Lakshadi Thailam
Bala Ashwagandha Lakshadi Thailam is also known as Balaswagandhadi Thailam. It provides benefits of Bala Tail and Ashwagandha Thailam. It soothes the skin, reduces dryness, improves strength and tones the muscles.
Although, Ksheerabala Thailam reduces three doshas, but it is a good choice for people with Vata Pitta Body Type. People with dry and sensitive skin can use this oil for massage.
If the baby has dry irritating and sensitive skin, this oil is best for massage.
How to Do Ayurvedic Massage
The massage should be gentle, soothing and relaxing for a baby. The baby should not feel any discomfort or pain due to massage strokes. In fact, he/she should be enjoying the massage.
A parent can talk or sing to the baby during massage making him/her happy. Don’t perform massage when the baby is crying or in any discomfort. First, make him happy and comfortable with massage. Talking or singing to him is very helpful to make a baby happy and stable during the massage.
Don’t knead with pressure, stretch or pull any organ of the baby. These things can be harmful. Here are a few tips for doing a baby massage.
- According to ayurveda, the massage should be done in the direction of hair follicles.
- It means you can start massaging limbs from proximal end to distal end (shoulder to hands and thighs to feet).
- In case of the back, you can start massage stroke from shoulders to hips.
- In case of the chest, massage stroke should be started from clavicle bone and shoulders to the upper part of the abdomen.
- In the abdominal area, circular massage with clockwise strokes is a good way.
First, the stroke pressure should be light. Then stroking movements can have the moderate pressure that a child can easily tolerate. Don’t exert pressure more that cause discomfort to baby or baby starts crying. The massage should be enjoyable and relaxing for the baby.
When should I start baby massage?
In ayurveda, massage is a part of daily routine. It should be done or performed on daily basis. The morning is the best time for massage. However, it can be also be performed in the evening.
The general principle is that the massage should be started when the baby becomes vitally stable after the birth. However, if the baby is too weak to tolerate even gentle massage (e.g. a preterm baby), sick or if baby has fever, exaggerated jaundice, then massage can be started after he becomes completely healthy and vitally stable.
Until navel gets completely healed after falling off the umbilical stump, the parent should be very careful while performing massage. Don’t touch the umbilicus or apply oil on and around the umbilicus.
Here are a few contraindications. The massage should be avoided in babies with the following problems:
- Loss of appetite in an infant or when baby refuses to get feed.
- Any type of sickness.
- Cough and cold.
- Cyanotic heart disease.
- Unstable infants.
- Preterm babies.
- Breathing problems.
- Pathologic jaundice (normally, massage can be performed if the baby has physiologic jaundice. The study has shown that massage helps the baby to recover from physiological jaundice more quickly than usual).
If your child is sick due to any disease, you should not perform massage unless recommended by a physician.
Don’t perform massage immediately after feeding. Keep at least 45 minutes of a gap before performing massage. However, you can give feed baby after the massage.
There are some bad practices in baby massage that can harm the baby instead of providing benefits. These practices include:
- Exerting high pressure that causes crying or discomfort in babies.
- Tapping on head.
- Stretching of baby’s limbs.
- Pulling of the ear and nasal cartilages.
- Oil can be different according to skin sensitivity, ayurvedic body type, individualized health requirements and even for the season. Therefore, consult an ayurvedic doctor before practicing ayurvedic infant massage.
- To prevent hypothermia in babies, the temperature of the room should be more than 25°C.
- During the massage, no air flow should be in the room. So, the fan should be turned off and windows should be closed.
Dr. Pooja Saini – Ayurvedic Doctor/Practitioner & Nurse Practitioner, (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) & Masters of Nurse Practitioner Mental Health, Working at Pure Herbal Ayurved Clinic in Melbourne, Australia.
- Major, B., Rattazzi, L., Brod, S., Pilipović, I., Leposavić, G., & D’Acquisto, F. (2015). Massage-like stroking boosts the immune system in mice. Scientific Reports, 5, 10913. http://doi.org/10.1038/srep10913
- Shrikrishna, Rajagopala & Raskar, Swapnil. (2015). Abhyanga in new born baby and neonatal massage – A review. International Journal of Ayurveda and Pharma Research. 3. 5-10.
- Savita Sadashiv Butali, RCT of balataila abhyanga versus coconut oil massage in the physiological transition of newborn, journal of ayurveda and holistic medicine (jahm) (issn:2321-1563). http://www.jahm.in/index.php/JAHM/article/view/188
- Agarwal, Kailash & Gupta, A & Pushkarna, R & Bhargava, Krishnakant & Faridi, Mma & K Prabhu, M. (2001). Effects of massage & use of oil on growth, blood flow & sleep pattern in infants. The Indian journal of medical research. 112. 212-7.
- Glew, G. M., Fan, M.-Y., Hagland, S., Bjornson, K., Beider, S., & McLaughlin, J. F. (2010). Survey of the Use of Massage for Children with Cerebral Palsy. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, 3(4), 10–15.
- Lin, C.-H., Yang, H.-C., Cheng, C.-S., & Yen, C.-E. (2015). Effects of infant massage on jaundiced neonates undergoing phototherapy. Italian Journal of Pediatrics, 41, 94. http://doi.org/10.1186/s13052-015-0202-y
- Chen J, Sadakata M, Ishida M, Sekizuka N, Sayama M. Baby massage ameliorates neonatal jaundice in full-term newborn infants. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2011 Feb;223(2):97-102. PubMed PMID: 21263210.