There are about 11,000 babies born in the United States every day. If you're a new mom or dad, how would you like to have one simple, natural technique that can be done at home and provides the following benefits for your newborn?
- Sound sleep
- Toned muscles as they grow
- Moisturized and nourished skin
- Calm nervous system
- Decreased stress levels
- Healthy digestion and healthy bowel movements
- Balanced weight gain and growth
- Improved circulation
- A loving connection between baby and mom, dad, or any caregiver
What is this one simple technique? An infant massage with oil.
Used in Ayurveda and other Eastern traditions for centuries, and a common practice in nearly all Indian households, this daily ritual of applying oil to the body is practiced from birth, throughout childhood and even into adulthood.
The key is combining the universally known benefits of massage with the nourishing effects of oil. An oil massage warms and lubricates the system and promotes healthy circulation, while also providing support for stress levels, growth, sleep and skin protection.
There are many oils on the market to choose from. Picking a certified organic oil assures you that the baby is not being exposed to pesticides or other harmful chemicals. Ayurveda recommends avoiding mineral oil, as it's derived from petroleum. Sesame oil is a traditional Ayurvedic oil, which is considered to be the “king of oils” because of its warming and nourishing qualities.
Ayurveda also offers the additional option of using an herbalized oil, which brings the enhanced benefits of nourishing and building herbs that are cooked into the oil. Ashwagandha-Bala oil, in a base of organic sesame oil, combines the powerful effects of two of the most well-known Ayurvedic herbs for strengthening and nourishing the tissues. Ashwagandha also helps the baby adapt to stress by soothing the nervous system and promoting healthy sleep. Bala literally means “strength” and supports muscle tone and vitality. Together with sesame oil, these herbs form an ideal Ayurvedic massage oil to support babies as they grow and develop.
Here are eight easy steps to incorporate oil massage into your infant’s daily routine, ideally right after a bath:
1. Place the oil in a squeeze bottle and slightly warm the oil by placing the squeeze bottle in a pot of hot water. This can warm while the infant is bathing.
2. In a warm room, place the undressed baby facing up in your lap or on a massage table. If yoga is a part of your daily routine, you can use the traditional method of sitting with legs straight out and the baby supported on your legs.
3. After testing the temperature of the oil, take some oil in both hands and apply to the baby’s scalp. Be gentle here as the baby still has a soft spot in the skull.
4. Move down to the arms. Take more oil for each step as needed. Massage by moving down and then up each arm, using long strokes for the long bones, and circular strokes on the joints. Since the baby’s arms are tiny, it often works well to massage with your thumbs. Massage the palms and each finger as well. Gentle but firm pressure is good here.
5. Take more oil and repeat the process for the legs.
6. Place some oil on the chest and gently follow along the collar bones. Finish massaging the rest of the chest, then massage the abdomen in large clockwise circles, following the direction that bowel movements flow.
7. Turn the baby over onto the belly, and massage the back and buttocks. Use long strokes (with your thumbs) on the back and flanks, and circular strokes on the buttocks.
8. Turn the baby back over to finish on the face, again with gentle strokes. Start with upward strokes at the third eye, then long strokes across the forehead. Massage with circles on the cheeks, then along the nose, above the nose, and along the chin. Also massage both ears, and finish with long strokes on the front and back of the neck.
You’re done! Wrap the baby snuggly in a blanket, and the baby is usually ready for a great nap. This practice of oil massage can be continued at any age with a number of terrific benefits. Make this a part of the daily routine for you and your little one, and you’ll see for yourself all the wonderful gifts it has to offer.
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