“Bonding and attachment is an ongoing process. It can start anytime and it must be nurtured,” said Dr. Roselyne M. Balita, a pediatrician and founder of the Little Lamb’s Pediatric Wellness Place during her talk at SmartParenting.com.ph's "The First Year of Life Workshop," held at Discovery Suites Ortigas. “One of the easiest and fastest way to nurture and show our love to our babies is through infant massage.”
If you’re a newbie massager to your little one, here are a few important things to remember:
1. Be mindful of what you’re doing. Take care not to just rub your baby mechanically or even sloppily. Infant massage is very beneficial, and you only get to take full advantage of it when you immerse yourself in the activity.
“The most important thing about baby massage is the interaction -- you get to strengthen your bond and relationship with your baby,” said Dr. Roselyne. Remember to talk to your baby and look into his eyes from time to time when you’re massaging him.
Aside from the benefits of interaction, infant massage can also stimulate your baby’s senses and provide relaxation for you and your baby, she added. Research shows that massaging also releases happy hormones called oxytocin, said Dr. Roselyne. And we all want happy babies, right?
2. Prep your baby. Before starting a massage, Dr. Roselyne recommends waiting 30 to 45 minutes after feeding for breastfed babies; for formula fed babies, it’s at least an hour.
Make sure he’s not cranky or irritable, too. The best time is when he’s quiet and engaged. “A soothing touch at the back or a light tapping at the buttocks will initially prepare the baby for it.” This is best done after you’ve calmed your baby down, if he was crying beforehand.
3. Do 'CLAS' before the massage. Once you’ve laid your baby down, do the CLAS steps -- Contact, Look, Ask and Swoosh. Make contact with your baby by looking him in the eyes. Then, ask permission if you can massage him and rub your hands with oil near his ears, which will produce “swooshing” sounds. (You can see a short demo on our Facebook page here.)
This may sound strange, but do this every time before you massage him and your baby will become familiar with the cues. Once the cue is established, it will let you know if your baby is up for a massage or isn’t feeling like it. “You can ask ‘Can I give you a massage?’, ‘Can I touch you?’ or ‘Can I start with your tummy?” said Dr. Roselyne. Don’t forget to swoosh afterwards.
4. Be picky with the oil you use. Avoid mineral oil and go for edible oil as much as possible. Mineral oil can get hot especially when you use it for massage where there’s a lot of friction, says Dr. Roselyne. Plus, with edible oil, there’s no danger of your baby ingesting toxins when he puts his fingers or toes in his mouth. Dr. Roselyne suggests grapeseed oil, sunflower oil and virgin coconut oil (VCO). “Not peanut oil, kasi baka may naga-allergy. The safest is VCO.” She does not recommend aceite de manzanilla as it can burn your baby’s sensitive skin.
5. Start with the farthest area first. Areas to start massaging are the legs and feet, back and hands. “Farthest areas first until they are comfortable with you, and they trust you enough to touch their more sensitive parts of the skin as you move central to the body,” said Dr. Roselyne. “Be gentle lalo na sa face as they can see your fingers and hands very close to them. As young as they are they can feel ‘invasion’ and can sense ‘danger’.”