Ayurvedic Oil Massage for Babies - Why, When & How?
If you are reading this blog ayurvedic oil massage for babies, you have probably just welcomed a little bundle of joy to the family or are awaiting one. So, congratulations! If you are a new, first-time parent, we can relate to your apprehensions about handling an infant and, even more importantly, giving your baby the best possible care.
Among the many efforts you plan to make to keep your little one safe and healthy, you must add a daily oil massage for the baby into your routine. It is not only an age-old, time-tested tradition practiced throughout India and other parts of the world, but is also crucial for the baby's health. Ayurveda, the 5000-year old traditional system of medicine prescribes a code or protocol (Jatamatra Paricharya) to be followed for neonatal care of which a daily Ayurvedic body massage ritual or Abhyanga is an important part. Modern scientific research too proves that neonatal massage is highly beneficial for healthy growth of babies.
Why? Benefits of Oil Massage for Babies
A large number of changes take place in our body from birth to adulthood, where our bones and muscles grow and take structure. Laying a strong foundation paves way for a healthy adult. According to Ayurveda, a daily massage of new-born babies with a medicated or herb-infused oil helps in achieving this at each stage.
An Abhyanga offers various benefits for the development of a baby's body at different stages. The key benefits of an Ayurvedic Abhyanga are listed below:
- The ordeal of childbirth is painful and stressful for both mother and child and increases the Vata dosha in the body. A warm oil massage helps in balancing the doshas and relieving all aches and pains.
- The use of herb-infused oils help in building immunity of the baby.
- Strengthens the muscles and bones of the infant.
- Moisturizes and strengthens the skin.
- Increases blood circulation.
- Helps strengthen the sensory and nervous systems.
- Helps in developing a bond between the mother and the baby.
- Aids in brain development
- Relaxes the baby and induces a sound sleep
- Aids digestion
- Helps cure Cradle cap, an inflammatory rash seen in many babies where the scalp develops flaky and crusty skin.
- Protects and heals Skin rash caused by nappies and diapers.
When? Best Time to Oil Massage for Babies
Ayurveda recommends a daily abhyanga from the time when the baby is 2 weeks old till the time he or she is old enough to carry on the daily ritual on their own. During the initial couple of weeks or when a baby in premature or unwell, only a gentle oil application, Samvahana, is recommended.
In most Indian households, the traditional japa maid or maalishwaali is hired to take care of the baby's massage. Otherwise, an elderly lady of the family like the grandmother would usually do this job. However, in modern-day nuclear families, where there is little-to-no support, the mother and father can take turns doing the same. The touch also helps build a bond of trust and security between the baby and parents.
Many Ayurvedic centers and spas offer mother and child massage packages too these days. Whichever method you may choose, it is going to be beneficial for the baby for sure.
Though there is no right time to start the massage per se, it is ideally good to start between 2-4 weeks of birth. The skin barrier of the newborn baby gets some time to develop during this time and will help protect the baby developing dry skin or any allergic reactions to the oil or lotion that you use for the massage. The stump at the navel also dries off and heals by this time so there is lesser chance of infecting it. In case you want to start the massage early, steer clear of the stomach and the navel.
In case of premature babies or babies with low birth weight, it is best to consult your doctor before starting with the massage. A gentle application of oil, without putting much pressure is recommended.
The massage can be performed at any time of the day but at least one hour after the baby has been fed. Since the massage is followed by a warm water bath, it can be done in the morning or just before bed time in the evening to help induce a peaceful sleep.
How? Choosing the Best Oil for Baby Massage
Children's skin and hair structures are among the last major systems to develop. Sweat glands which help regulate temperature and eliminate toxins from our bodies take up to three years to develop. This means that babies' bodies do not naturally get rid of toxins like adults do.
There is a plethora of baby massage oils available in the market these days. But any commercially available baby body massage oil that you pick will be largely Mineral Oil-based. Mineral oil does not nourish and has been proven to be harmful for the baby's delicate skin. Essential oils and oils that contain perfume or synthetic ingredients should not been used on babies. It is best to stick to natural, plant-based organic oils for your baby's delicate skin.
However, we strongly recommend that you perform a patch test with the product on the baby's arm for a day or so before using it on the rest of the body--even with natural products.
So which natural oils should you choose?
Sesame oil is warming and nourishing, and is one of the most common oils used in Ayurvedic massages. Ayurvedic scriptures call it an Oushadhi tailam (medicinal oil) because it cures most diseases. By nature, Sesame oil is easily spreadable and non-sticky, warm and restorative, deep-penetrating and a bactericide and germicide. It is also rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals etc. Sesame oil is an excellent skin and hair moisturizer and aids in increasing physical strength and stamina.
Coconut Oil has cooling and moisturizing properties. It also nourishes scalp and hair, moisturizes skin and quickens wound healing. Due to the presence of Lauric acid, it helps in fighting fungal and bacterial infections. However, since it is cooling in nature it can cause cough and colds in babies especially during monsoons and winters. So, it is best to either infuse herbs or combine it with a warming oil.
Sweet Almond oil is enriched with Vitamins A, B2, B6, D and E, fatty acids, and also a few minerals. Almond oil is a great moisturizer for babies. It contains Vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium, which helps keep your baby’s skin and hair healthy. It also has vitamin D, potassium, and Calcium, which help strengthen your baby’s skeleton and joints.
However beneficial any oil may be, according to Ayurvedic Acharyas, it should be infused and processed with herbs to enhance its healing properties.
Parama Naturals' Moisturizing Face and Body Oil is the perfect blend of cold-pressed Sesame, Coconut and Almond oils infused with the goodness of 100% pure extract of Turmeric, nature's most powerful healer with anti-septic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial properties. Turmeric is power-packed with antioxidants, flavinoids, vitamins, calcium, iron and many other nutritional components that will nourish and protect your baby's skin. Our oil is hypoallergenic and has absolutely no additives, perfumes or preservatives making it the perfect baby massage oil for delicate baby skin. In fact, the mild natural fragrance of Turmeric can be soothing for the baby. For detailed insight into the Parama Naturals' products that you can use for Mom and Baby, do read our blog Parama Naturals for Pregnant Women, Mums and Babies.
Shop now for the Mom and Baby kit by Parama Naturals here.
How & When to Perform the Massage
- Sit in a draught-free room without any distractions like a TV or a phone call. Your baby needs your full attention while you massage him/her. Talk to your baby in soft, soothing tone or sing to him/her.
- Choose a time when the baby is not hungry but also not just been fed.
- Sit on a flat surface with your legs straight out in the front. Lay down the baby between the legs with the head of the baby resting on your feet and and her face towards you. You could also make the baby lie on the bed or the floor over a towel/blanket.
- Warm the Ayurvedic oil over indirect heat (you could immerse the bottle in a bowl of warm water). take a little in your palms and rub your palms together.
- Begin with a gentle massage of the legs first. Holding the thigh first, move your hands down the legs in a long sweeping movement. Use gentle strokes to massage each toe individually before moving to the soles of the tiny feet. Do not rub vigorously.
- Next massage the abdomen and chest in light circular motion.
- Massage the shoulders in a circular motion and then go down the length of each arm. Remember to massage the fingers and palms too.
- Lightly apply oil all over the face, neck and ears. Parama Naturals' Body oil is 100% pure and edible. So you need not fear even if you apply the oil on the lips or if your baby puts his/her hand in the mouth.
- Apply the oil on the head in light circular motion. Do not apply pressure on the soft crown area for the first 3 months.
- Now turn the baby on his/her stomach and rub the oil in long sweeping motion down the back. Next massage the hips in a circular motion and then the back of the legs in downward strokes.
- Wrap the baby in a towel and wait for 10-15 minutes before taking him/her for a bath with lukewarm water.
Precautions to be taken
- Never massage the baby when he/she has just been fed.
- Avoid massages when the baby is unwell, is down with cough/cold or fever or has an upset stomach.
- Make sure your hands are clean and nails clipped short.
- Use your palms instead of finger tips for massaging without applying too much pressure.
- Avoid contact with eyes.
- Do not hold the baby in your hands while massaging. Your hands would be slippery with the oil and there is a risk of the baby slipping and getting hurt. Always lay him/her down on a towel or old sheet placed on the bed/floor mat. Wash your hands before picking up the baby for giving bath.
- If you are unsure of the correct way to massage, do not hesitate to ask the doctor or hire a professional.
Other Blogs You Might be Interested in: