You aren’t the only one who craves a massage and a warm perfumed bath every day. Infants and young toddlers, in particular, love warm oil massages and warm water baths. Babies love a gentle hand stroking them and more often than not, they love playing with your gentle hands as you massage them. Apart from the pure fun factors, gentle oil massages are also known to improve sleep, help in digestion and boost the baby’s immune system, says What to Expect. They also help to create a loving bond between parent and baby. However, before you actually start with a baby massage, here are a few things you should know.
Best Age for a Massage
Most doctors recommend you start massages only after the baby is three months old. Infant skin is delicate and it does not really require oil massages, says Baby Magic. Parents may use neutral-smelling moisturizers or creams on infant skin, but oil massages should only be started after three to four months of age and continued until the baby is one year old.
Technique to Use
Doctors do not recommend any specific technique for the baby oil massage, but there are a few do’s and don’ts that you should know about, says Parents Magazine.
- DO use upward motions while massaging the baby when the baby is active. Use downward motions when the baby is sleepy.
- DO NOT massage your baby when he is hungry or full. Choose a time midway between meals for maximum effect.
- DO be gentle, as too much pressure can make the baby very uncomfortable.
- DO NOT continue the massage if your baby starts frowning or moving away. Sometimes it takes a little time for the baby to adjust to the massage routine. If the infant starts wailing, discontinue the massage process completely.
- DO stay clear of any areas that have been vaccinated.
- DO NOT put oil in the baby’s ears, nose or eyes, as it may cause fungal infections or irritation.
Always check with your pediatrician before you start baby massages. The doctor may recommend reading about massages before you start, and he or she may also demonstrate safe and quick baby massage techniques.
What Baby Oil is Best
This is probably the most important aspect of the oil massage process. Most companies now retail baby oil products that are perfect for a baby’s skin. Brands like The Honest Company are ideal as they are made with natural ingredients with no added perfume or chemicals. However, you can also use completely natural oils for a baby massage such as olive oil, sesame seed oil, virgin coconut oil, canola oil, grape seed oil, corn oil, avocado oil or safflower oil. Most of these natural oils are edible, unscented and completely safe for baby massage use. Although these oils are not specifically marketed as baby products, they are perfectly safe to use. A few general recommendations and tips include the following:
- If your baby has sensitive skin, avoid vegetable oils and use specially formulated products for the oil massage.
- Do not mix oil and oil products as they may contain different elements that don’t work well together. Stick to one product or natural oil if it agrees with your baby’s skin.
- Some cultures have a tradition of infusing natural oils with spices. This means heating the oil with spices and then massaging the baby with the oil. No matter which kind of oil you use, make sure you do a skin patch test 24 hours before you actually massage the baby.
- Avoid essential oils, as they are very strong in flavor and taste. And they may cause allergies.
- Mineral oils are used in baby oil products and they are very moisturizing. However, some people do not like using mineral oil, and in these instances they can use a vegetable oil instead.
- Edible vegetable oil may be contaminated with other oils and this may cause skin allergies. No matter which product you buy, make sure you buy only 100 percent pure products and use only a small amount.
- Buy in small amounts since vegetable oils expire.
- Avoid all nut oils, especially if anyone in your family has nut allergies.
Whichever oil you choose, make sure that you check the bottle for contaminants, says Baby Center. Some babies have delicate skin and even the simplest baby oil can cause rashes. In case this happens, stop using the oil and switch over to a brand that has no fragrance, color or additives. Make sure you also wipe off or rinse off all baby oil after the massage. Baby oil is slippery and leaving it on the baby’s skin is not recommended for safety reasons. Babies also respond well to routine and they will be happier if you schedule the massage and bath at the same time every day.