What you need to give a baby a massage
Massage seems so simple, right? Rub hands on body part. What more do you need? Well, massage therapists have a few more tricks up their sleeves to make your massage perfect, and giving your baby a massage is no different. Creating the proper environment for the massage as well as having the right items on hand will help your baby’s massage go as easy as possible.
A massage therapist's room environment tells a lot: the lights are generally low, it is pretty quiet except for some gentle music or other soothing sounds, etc. It takes you away from whatever crazy hectic life is outside and helps you relax and heal. Same goes for your baby. You want to minimize distractions, and create a comfortable place to conduct the massage.
- Make sure the space is a comfortably warm temperature.
Baby will likely be unclothed for most of the massage, so you want to make sure they are not cold.
- Have a comfortable place for baby to lie down.
I VERY strongly recommend doing a full infant massage on the floor. Not on a table, a bed, or even a lap because baby can roll. Floor is safest and provides the most convenience for the one doing the massage. Lay down some blankets, a pillow, or even something like a Boppy to make the space soft and comfy.
- Avoid bright lights.
You don’t necessarily have to have dim lights, however you might want to make sure that baby isn’t laying directly under and looking up at a full, bright light.
- Remove noise or visual distractions
This is a nice way of saying turn off your phone and the tv for the length of the massage. If you want to have music playing, that’s fine, as long as it isn’t distracting baby. Massage time is a chance for you to spend undistracted time with them. The lack of distractions will also help your baby to focus on getting the full benefits of the massage.
- Make sure you are comfortable
If you are going to make your baby calm and relaxed, you need to make sure you start that way. Change out of any tight or uncomfortable clothes for something comfy, and be sure you are able to sit comfortably on the floor, so if you need blankets or pillows for yourself, have them on hand as well. If you are uncomfortable, baby will pick up on it and fidget and squirm as well.
You really don’t need much to do a massage, but it is helpful to have a few things, and you want to have these things nearby and within easy reach (even if you think you won’t need them, grab them anyway) before you start so that you don’t have to get up and leave baby alone once you’ve started the massage.
- Your lotion or other massage lubricant
If you are using an oil, lotion, or other product to give your hands a little glide during the massage, have it ready to go close by. What product should you use? I have a whole detailed article about infant massage products here, but the short version is that you can use any unscented lotion that does not contain mineral oil, a simple plant based non-nut oil such as grapeseed or olive oil, or even corn starch to do the baby’s massage. Whatever product you use is up to you and the needs of your baby’s skin.
- A bottle or other snack
Even though you don’t want to necessarily perform baby’s massage too close to feeding time, sometimes a bottle will help to keep them from getting fussy and wanting to end the session early.
- A soft toy or other favorite thing
Once again, you want baby to focus on the massage, but they don’t have a huge attention span, so giving them something they like such as a small toy to play with while you are doing the massage may keep them laying still for you longer.
- Spare diaper and wipes
Sometimes massage can get stuff moving, so having supplies within easy reach in case of any 'intestinal releases’ will allow you to take care of business without breaking the flow of the massage
Don’t let the thought of the massage stress you out. Don’t treat it like a chore that you have to do because all the baby blogs and mommy groups say it is a good thing. You should enjoy the time with your baby and have fun with it. It doesn’t have to be a strict, clinical experience. Sing, laugh, talk to baby, react to baby’s cues and go with the flow. If you go into the massage with the attitude of “ok kid, let’s get this over with so you can get to sleep”, baby will likely be fussy and not want to cooperate because your attitude is a little on the fussy side. If you aren’t feeling it, are over-tired, or just too stressed out, skip a day - nothing bad will happen. Take time for yourself and pick it up again when you are feeling more right about things. Babies pick up on your thoughts, emotions, and energy especially through touch, so keep your attitude towards the experience light happy, fun, and peaceful and you will create those same emotions in your baby, making the massage that much more beneficial to both of you.