Monday, July 18, 2011

Baby Massage

So when I was pregnant,  all the baby books I read mentioned something about about infant massage, or "baby massage" as I like to call it.  The books described how baby massage can have a number of benefits for the baby and for bonding, so naturally I was sold.  The only problem I had was trying to learn how to do it based on the pictures or illustrations in the books.  I don't know about you, but I learn movement-type tasks better when they are in video form, as opposed to still pictures. So I knew if I was going to be any good at this baby massage business I'd have to get a video or something to teach me.
Baby massage with Avery at 2 months old.
Enter: Massage Practice for Infants by Michelle Kluck-Ebbin. I was hoping to embed the video preview here for you to watch, but I was unable to due to the format. I was able to find it on the Gaiam site though, so if you're interested in a preview, check it out here.  This DVD was excellent. It was very informative and easy to follow.  It taught me not only about do the movements in baby massage,  but also WHY you do the movements. 

When I first started doing baby massage on Avery, I set my laptop up right on our bed and watched the DVD on there, so I could follow right along with the instructor as I massaged Avery.  After a few times of this, I got the hang of it and felt confident enough to try it without the DVD, since I had pretty much memorized the routine.  As of now, I don't need the DVD, and I've kind of come up with my very own baby massage routine based on the one from the DVD.  Occasionally I will re-watch the DVD to refresh my memory though.  If you are considering baby massage, but don't know where to start, I highly recommend this DVD. Last, don't feel pressured to follow the DVD step by step.  I tweaked some of the movements and the amount of time I do them on Avery based on her interests and needs, so do the same for you and your baby. 

Wondering why baby massage is worth the time and effort? Here are some of the many benefits of baby massage (as cited by the DVD) :
  • helps promote faster weight gain
  • stimulates baby's neurological development
  • helps baby sleep better
  • relieves gas, colic, constipation, and the pain of teething
  • helps deepen communication between parent and infant
  • builds a solid foundation for your child's health and well-being
Not sold yet? Here are some of my favorite things about baby massage:
  • time for me to relax and bond with Avery-As a mom, I get busy with changing diapers, cleaning house, etc. this gives me a chance to slow down, take it easy and bond with my baby girl.
  • seems to increase her attention span-  In the beginning she would only last about 5 or 10 minutes, but now we can go for 10 to 15 and even some days 20 minutes! Of course she looks away from time to time, but for the most part she stays focused and happy with the activity at hand.  I think she likes all the hands on attention-lol!
  • you can do it anywhere- I had fun keeping this massage routine up even when we went on vacation and I'm sure Avery appreciated the consistency in our routine.
  • helps you get to know your baby's body- Sounds like a weird thing to say, but it wasn't until I did this DVD for the first time that I was like, "Oh my gosh look how tiny her little pinky toe is!" or "Her little ears are so cute!" It makes you appreciate all the fun features of your baby.   On a more preventive note, this could also be helpful in catching changes in baby's skin or body, such as: bumps, scratches, or rashes that might go unnoticed otherwise. 
  • it seems to help her just be happier- Sometimes if I go a few days without a massage I can tell a difference in her behavior and her digestion.  She seems more cranky and gassy.  By keeping up with the massage, I feel like I'm able to help her relax and stay more regular. 

When to start and how:
I started doing massage with Avery when she was about a month old, but I'm sure you could try it earlier if you'd like, and looking back I wish I would have.  I think I was just nervous that I would "get it wrong".  But then I realized that Avery is a baby and she has no idea about the "right" or "wrong" way to give a massage, so I put my perfectionism aside and just did it one day and I'm so glad I did. As of now I give Avery a massage once a day (it helps that I'm a teacher and I am home all day every day enjoying my summer break), but some days we get busy and I don't have time for it and that's okay. I try to catch it the next day.  Do what's comfortable for you and what works for your baby and your schedule.  My favorite time to do massage on Avery is a little after she's been fed and right before her longest morning nap.  The massage really relaxes her and prepares her for sleep.  Before bed would probably be a great time too!

Supplies needed for baby massage:
  • Your baby...obviously! Make sure he or she is fed (but not right after a feeding) usually I wait at least 15 minutes. Also, I find it easiest to massage Avery in just her diaper, sometimes I let her go naked if she needs some diaper-free air time. If I do this I make sure to put a cloth diaper under her, in case she decides to pee...which she usually does once at each massage session!
  • Soft place to sit . I like our bed because it's comfy for both of us.
  • Some type of oil, I use Aura Cacia Sweet Almond Natural Skin Care Oil.  It cost $5-6 and can be found at most health food stores or online.  I was worried at first about putting anything on Avery's skin, but the ingredients are so pure (just almond oil and natural vitamin E)  that I knew it would be safe for her. Now after nearly 2 1/2 months of using it, she has shown no irritation or problems from it.  In fact, it seems to be helpful in supporting her smooth, soft, supple baby skin.  I also keep a cloth napkin close by to wipe off my hands if I get too much oil on them.
  • iPod or stero to play relaxing music if you would like.  Here is one of my favorite relaxing songs that I put on repeat during our massage sessions, it's called, "Autumn Colors" by Denise Young.  I wonder if Avery will remember it as she gets older, since we listen to it nearly daily? Such an awesome relaxing song! Do you have any relaxing favorites?
  • Laptop or DVD player to play the infant massage DVD if you are still learning the ropes.
Time to start the massage! Here's some pictures of a typical baby massage session with Avery! Just a note these pictures were all taken when Avery had just turned 2 months case you're wondering why she looks a bit smaller. Trust me, that girl is definitely not shrinking! Mommy is just a little behind in getting this post done!

First, apply some oil to your hand, about a quarter-size amount.

Getting the sweet almond oil ready.

Now start with the legs, (the least vulnerable part of the body and the one Avery seems to enjoy the most).   The DVD describes about five basic movements to do with each leg, such as: a milking type motion up to the hip, twisting, milking down to the feet, rolling the leg between your hands, and a few others with the feet and toes.

I do each of these movements for about a minute or so, depending on Avery's interest and attention span.  After completing each of these movements on the left leg, I get a little more oil and move to the right leg.
"Milking the leg" as the DVD describes

Time for the toes.

Now the ankle.

Following the legs, I move on to the stomach; a key area that will help relieve gas and help treat or prevent other digestive discomforts.  A key thing to note with the stomach is if you are doing circular-type movements, always make sure to go in a clockwise direction or from your left to right.  This helps move things along in their digestive tract...such as bowel movements or gas, which can help especially if you're baby is constipated.  Be sure you do not go counter-clockwise as that would cause your baby to become even more constipated...might be good if you're having diarrhea trouble though.  Okay enough with the poppy talk. When did my blog about green living become so poopy-lol?!

Time for that tummy! See all my supplies: iPod, massage oil,
cloth napkin, comfy bed, cute baby!

One of my favorite stomach movements is one called, "I Love You."  If you take any movement from this post, let it be this one.  It's easy to do and can be very helpful in preventing colic, relieving gas or other digestive issues.  Below is a cool graphic I found that explains the movement. Be sure your letter-tracing movement is going in a clockwise direction to get the full benefit and help move things along in your baby's belly!

As I do the movements, I also say the words. Now maybe it's because I say "I love you" to Avery a million times a day, but she always seems to perk up during this part and smile at me even more.

I always make sure to talk to her and try to keep her eye contact.
It makes it way more fun!

After the stomach is the chest, followed by the of my favorites!

Doing circles on her cheeks.
Lately she's been liking a little scalp massage, where I rub my fingers in small circles all over her scalp as if I'm rubbing shampoo in her hair.  I started doing this to help exfoliate some of the dry skin she had on her scalp, but now I keep doing it because it makes her smile and coo every time!

Next are the arms, an area that is more vulnerable for babies, as they like to keep their arms close to their bodies.  The DVD describes how you just repeat the same basic motions you did on the legs, but now with the arms.  Be sure to get a bit more oil if needed, and start with one arm and then move on to the other arm.
Moving on to the arms and hands.
As you can see I made it to the other arm, but she's starting to get fussy...those arms do it to me every time! So I keep it short and sweet.
Is she trying to massage my arms? I don't like that!

Since she's reached her limit with the massage, I go ahead and move her onto my chest and attempt to massage her back, the last area shown on the DVD.  This is not her favorite area either, mainly because she tries to hold her head and neck up as if she is doing Tummy Time.  So I do a few strokes down her back while I can and then we call it good.

Getting a few strokes in on her back before she gets too fussy.

Is this Tummy Time or what Mom? I'm done with the massage!

Now as she's gotten older, I've been able to add a bit more onto the end of the massage, like in the "Stretching" section at the end of the DVD.  I also do a fun thing where I hold her hands and then pull her up to standing (her new favorite thing to do).  I then let her stand, with support, for about half a minute, then I lower her down to sitting, and then I lower her back down to laying flat.  We repeat this four or five times. Then the massage is complete!

All done!

Need more help remembering the motions? The creator of this DVD actually has a "baby massage shirt" which has illustrations and instructions printed on a onesie to remind you of the movements, check it out here. Pretty cool!

Now that's just one approach to baby massage. There are all kinds of other DVDs out there as well as books, and even classes you can attend if that's the way you learn best.  Personally I loved this DVD and how I could learn it in the comfort of my own home and now I have been able to create my own baby massage routine for Avery.  I plan on continuing massage Avery for as long as she will let me...or sit still to do so.  I especially look forward to doing this with her when I have to go back to work in a month, as I think it will be a great way for us to bond and connect after I've been gone all day.

Have you ever tried baby massage? If so, did you use a book, video or go to a class? What benefits did you notice in your baby? Please post below!


  1. Ashley, thanks for all the info! I don't have kids yet but I always get such great ideas from your blog for future use :)


  2. Hey Ashley,
    Glad you liked the post! It's nice knowing someone will get some use out of what I post...even if it's in the future! ( :


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