We recently started offering baby massage, and baby massage classes, at our spa in Palisades, NY. I sat down with Patricia Pol, our infant massage therapist and instructor, to ask her about the benefits of massaging your baby. Little did I know there would be so many! Here's what she told me.
Me: What are the benefits of baby massage?
Patricia: There are so many! Massage helps improve your baby’s sleeping patterns and digestion. It can also ease congestion and soothe babies with colic. Using long strokes helps with muscle coordination and aids development. It can even help them build up the strength in their neck, hands, and feet. As a way of teaching, you can talk to a baby throughout the massage, telling them what part of the body you are working on. Many studies have shown that massage is helpful for babies and infants with developing problems. It helps improve their coordination by stimulating their neurological systems and improving circulation.
Me: Does it help you bond with your baby?
Patricia: Yes, definitely. More than anything, baby massage is about bonding through the power of touch, especially for fathers, who sometimes have a harder time bonding with a newborn. Baby massage is about being able to leave everything behind for just 10 minutes to focus on your little one. Since the mother connects with the baby through the pregnancy and breastfeeding, massage gives the baby a chance to get used to the father’s touch, and it will help the father feel at ease.
Me: What is the best time of day for a baby massage and can you start when the baby is still a newborn?
Patricia: You can start massaging a baby when he or she is still a newborn. Generally, it should be done at a very specific time of day, a time when the baby is usually calm—after an evening bath, for example. They will become used to the routine, and it will help them relax. They may even fall asleep. A screaming baby, however, will not want a massage, and it shouldn’t’ be forced if the baby doesn’t want it.
Me: How long should the massage last? How frequently should you do it?
Patricia: You can do it every day. (If your baby has colic, then you might want to do it for a few minutes several times a day.) You can apply our Calendula Baby Oil to nourish the skin after a bath and massage for a couple of minutes. It’s best to start for a minute or two at a time, and then increase the length as the baby gets used to it.
Me: What products should you use when you’re doing the massage?
Patricia: It’s best to use a natural plant-based lotion, such as our Calendula Lotion, when you’re massaging a teeny-tiny newborn. You can also use our Calendula Oil, which is wonderful, but you have to be very careful because you won’t have the same grip that you have with the lotion and it will be easier for the baby to slip out of your hands. Calendula Oil helps protect the skin, and the calendula has warming properties. It helps babies with eczema. Certain techniques that you use are similar to adult massage, but because the surface is smaller, you may only use one hand while you’re using the other to hold the baby.
Me: Where can a parent go to perfect his or her baby massage technique?
Patricia: Our class at the Weleda Spa in Palisades, NY, lasts for one-hour and costs $80.
I would recommend two classes to feel comfortable. I always suggest that people practice with a doll at the first class and then try it on their baby at the second class. A lot of it comes naturally. You can learn certain techniques for the stomach, for digestion, but a lot of it is just about that loving, soothing touch.