Massage therapy can play an important role in neonatal care, for mother and baby alike. It can benefit the growth and development of the newborn and address the physical and emotional changes mothers are going through. Many mothers and babies will have experienced some risky times during pregnancy. Some may have come through premature birth. Babies may have been born with a disease or an abnormal condition. Whatever their experiences, massage therapy as part of their daily routine can do nothing but improve the situation of both mother and child.
Benefits of Massage and Neonatal Care
Babies can benefit from massage therapy just like adults. Infants also love the soothing feeling you get from a good massage: the gentle touch of healing hands on their bodies is just as relaxing.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of a soothing pampering massage for both mum and baby.
Massage for newborns
- Improves baby’s bonding with mother through touch
- Helps babies relax
- Improves the child’s digestion
- Helps them sleep better
- Makes them aware of their bodies
- Enhances weight gain
- Develops their brains
- Relieves discomfort from teething
- Enhances muscle development
Massage for new mothers
- A soothing massage can bring much-needed relief from depression brought on by any number of possible causes. These might include a troubled pregnancy, hormonal changes, lifestyle changes, and new responsibilities.
- Various pains associated with pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare can be alleviated by a gentle massage.
- Massage helps to regulate your hormones and cheer you up.
- Relaxation associated with massage therapy fights fatigue and improves sleep.
- Reduces swelling.
- Gentle massage heals internally and speeds up recovery.
- Increases milk production and enhances breastfeeding.
When to Start Massage
Massage for infants
You can gently introduce massage to infants from the day you bring your child home. Mum herself can give a light massage or encourage dad to do his bit to strengthen the bond between father and child. And let’s not forget grannies and grandads and other relatives who might also like to give the new arrival a gentle rubdown.
Best time for massage
A key point to remember when you start massaging your newborn is that it should be done when you’re not in rush to do anything else. The session should be completely relaxing. Don’t do it when your child is hungry or has just had a meal. A hungry child is unlikely to stay. And one who’s eaten may start regurgitating. You might consider giving baby a daily massage at a regular time—before a bath, maybe, or at bedtime.
Massage for new mothers
New mothers can start having massages when they feel ready for it. However, it’s advisable to consult your physician, especially if there have been any complications during pregnancy or at birth.
Precautions with caesareans
The aftermath of the major surgery of a caesarean section (or C-section) can be extremely painful. And recovery time is longer than for a normal delivery. With C-sections, it’s wise to avoid massage until your wound has completely healed. This could take one or two weeks, or even more. Any pressure applied before your scar has healed could cause problems. Again, the best policy is to consult your doctor.
When to avoid massage
Massage therapy can pose a risk when you have one of these or any other complications:
- High blood pressure
- Issues with skin, such as blisters, eczema or any other skin conditions.
Massage for Infants
Before performing any massage therapy on your child, consider any health issues they may have and consult your healthcare professional. Pay special attention to your child’s individual needs and condition. Massaging your baby isn’t something you want to get stressed up about. And it’s definitely not as demanding as massaging an adult! Just ten to twenty minutes per session is all you need.
Tips to remember when massaging your infant
- Get some basic training before giving your child any massage therapy. If you’re seeking help from a professional massage therapist, make sure they’re trained to work with babies and young children. Massage therapists who work exclusively with adult clients may not be best qualified to advise you.
- Constantly connect with your child—with eye contact and by smiling and talking. Look out for signs that they’re enjoying the session—smiling and giggling would be a good indication!
- A child that starts crying or looking detached and disinterested might not be ready for the session. Don’t force them to continue if they’re obviously not enjoying it.
- Your massage session should be a fun time that you and baby enjoy together. Newborns are unlikely to fit smoothly into any routine during the first week or month. But with time, they may get used to a regular schedule.
- Never force a session, rather be flexible. If your infant isn’t interested in getting undressed for a massage, it’s wiser to call it off. A hungry or sleepy child, or one that’s determined to do anything but enjoy a massage probably can’t be swayed. Singing a favourite tune or reciting a nursery rhyme is a good way to get junior in the mood.
Hygiene, oils, and lotions
- Hygiene is essential when you’re dealing with young children. Before you begin the session, make sure that you have followed basic hygiene procedures. Wash your hands before starting a massage. Infants are highly susceptible to infections.
- Everything you might need during the massage session should be close at hand. This may include baby oil or lotion (depending on your preference), floor pads, paper tissues, towel, etc. If you’re doing the massage just before bathtime, make sure all bathing supplies are also nearby.
- Be gentle when massaging your offspring. Hardly any pressure is needed and no strong strokes but light. Instead, use light, gentle movements with hands and fingertips.
Massage for New Mothers
New mothers need to get into the routine of a daily massage. You might feel uncomfortable about taking time out for yourself when you have a new baby to look after. And though it may be difficult, the results will benefit both you and your newborn enormously. Here are a couple of things you could do:
- Ask a close friend or relative to look after baby when you have your massage. It could be your partner or any other trusted member of your family. If your little one is acquainted with the babysitter, all the better. The main thing is that it’s someone reliable. Someone you can leave in charge without you worrying all through your massage.
- Schedule your massage at home this would be more a lot more convenient for you with a new baby. Just be sure to arrange your massage at a time when your baby has been fed well and won’t need you for an hour or so.
- If you can’t find a massage therapist willing to come to your home every day, try to schedule massage appointments at times when your baby will be taking a nap. Ideally, you could do it when dad’s going to be at home!
Tips for therapists
Massage is one way of relieving the stress that many new mothers feel. It relaxes and calms the nerves. To be effective, sessions should make the subject feel comfortable, pampered and special. Some useful tips for massage sessions with new mothers:
- New mothers should feel comfortable and safe during their massage session. Physical positioning will vary according to the particular treatment being given and the subject’s health condition. Some may prefer to lie on their side others on their back. The important thing is for the therapist has access to all the areas that need attention.
- Misalignment of the pelvis during pregnancy can lead to further complications. Massage should, therefore, be aimed at rebalancing the muscles around the pelvic and hip area.
- Pain in the neck, shoulder and back is a common complaint with many mothers. Discomfort in these areas is further compounded by actions necessary when looking after the child: lifting, carrying, nursing, etc. Massage therapy should attend to these areas as well.
- Pregnancy also leads to fatigue in the legs along with aching feet. Lymphatic massage used on these areas will improve circulation and reducing swelling. Elevating your client’s legs will further improve drainage. Intense labour may have caused clotting in the legs, in which case, avoid massage or excessive pressure in this area.
- Breast massage is not included in regular massage therapy; however, you can teach your clients some simple techniques they can apply themselves to alleviate any discomfort they may be experiencing.
Some Precautions with C-Section or other Medical Complications
- For C-Section deliveries, it is important that therapists stay away from scars and the lower abdomen area. Pressure applied in this area could be harmful.
- For Caesareans, limit massage to the safe areas of arms, head and feet.
- The wounds deep within the body begin to heal 5 to 6 weeks after delivery. A special light massage around the scar after surgery can enhance the recovery of the incision. However, it should be performed by a therapist who has expertise in this area.
- C-section scar massage should not take place until after the incision has closed. And it is highly recommended that you get the approval of the doctor before going ahead with any massage therapy.
Massage is beneficial for newborn babies and new mothers alike, from both the physical and the emotional perspective. Massage therapies prove magical for women during pregnancy and after birth as well. Regular massage therapy sessions for mother and baby make both of them calmer. It improves mother-baby bonding. A regular daily massage makes new mothers feel more confident about her physical and emotional health and enables them to take care of their newborns even better. Newborns and young children who are massaged daily show great improvements in their physical, emotional, and neurological development. This unique experience shared by mother and child on a daily basis is possibly the most fulfilling experience for any family.