Ahhh. I always imagined it to be a superbly relaxing affair. After all, the definition of massage is “rubbing and kneading of muscles and joints of the body with the hands, especially to relieve pain or tension.”
I will never forget the first body oil massage I had. Abhyanga – An Ayurvedic massage, given by two professional masseurs. While they slather you with oil, you slither! And as the massage progresses, so does the awareness of your body parts, which groan and definitely scream ‘Exercise!’. As I go from Ahh to Ooh and Ouch, the masseurs adopt a blank expression and continue the pounding.
After you have had your baby, the mother and the child are treated to massages for at least the first three months. The period of pregnancy plays havoc with the body of the mother. Your body needs to come back to its original shape and form after the immense amount of stretching it has undergone. Also, you are often sleep deprived and the hormones are at war. A good diet and sound sleep help the mother to recover faster. A good massage routine goes a long way in aiding this.
Let us now look at a massage from a baby’s perspective. Why is it beneficial to babies? Dr Mark Sossin, Director of Parent-Infant Research Nursery, Pace University says, “affectionate touch and rhythmic movement are among the most powerful forms of communication between babies and their parents.” So, massages are great ways for you to bond. When you hold your baby, she is all happy and smiling! But the moment you put her down she cries.
Studies show that the central nervous system is also stimulated after a massage. The brain produces more serotonin (a feel-good chemical) and as a result, the heartbeat and breathing slow down, making your baby relaxed. A few more benefits are:
- It helps develop the baby mentally, socially and physically
- It eases the tummy troubles
- It alleviates teething pains
- It affirms your bond with the baby
- It soothes babies with special needs like Downs’ syndrome, cerebral palsy, etc.
Did you know that a massage has some great benefits for premature babies as well? It helps in
- Improved weight gain
- Calmer response to stress and pain
- More stable brain activity and more stable heart rate
Ensure that you are smiling, happy and relaxed while giving the massage else your baby will be stressed out by the end of it along with you! The baby too needs to be alert while receiving the massage. Try not to massage your baby when she is fussy or upset for some reason.
When my baby was born in 1991, we were not as spoilt for choices as we are now. Breastfeeding was very much part of the deal, as was a massage for the baby. The baby would be inundated with all kinds of home-made products like chickpea powder and milk or cream, and the poor thing had no inkling of what was going to happen to her next. We hired a grumpy but excellent midwife, who specialised in baby massages soon after my delivery. She would give my baby an oil massage, totally oblivious to the fact that the little one was screeching like a banshee.
I would watch from the door, heart in my mouth and if I opened my mouth to say ‘Isn’t that enough Akka?’ she would give me a look that said ‘you young girls, you know nothing.’ The rubbing and kneading continued vigorously amidst the shrieking. But my baby used to sleep blissfully for the next two hours after a bath, and I alongside her!
To be forewarned is forearmed. So, delve into the information provided by the internet, check with your gynaecologist and paediatrician and start giving your baby an oil massage. Research on the types of oils available, and the one that would suit you best.
I discuss this further in my next article. Massage helps your baby to develop mentally and physically, stay relaxed, sleep better and cry less. Those are great benefits. And a great way to spend quality time with your baby, don’t you agree?