Baby Massage: Discover how & why to do it right
Do you ever find yourself absent-mindedly stroking and touching your baby? Stroking their little leg as they feed, touching and kissing the top of their head as you carry them in the sling, soothing their back when they cry?
This is a deep and natural instinctive touch – and is the foundation of massage. This instinctive touch is your primal way of comforting, calming and communicating with your baby.
For babies, touch is the first communication they ever know outside the womb. Your gentle, loving touch tells them they are safe, loved and valued.
Every culture has some form of baby massage. Now western medicine has recognised – and researched – the deep physical, mental an emotional benefits of baby massage. And the findings are astonishing.
Find out more about the benefits of baby massage, how to do it and which oils to use, in our ultimate guide to baby massage.
Benefits of baby massage
If you’ve given your baby a massage, you’ve probably noticed how much it helps them relax. This relaxation benefit is why it’s so common to give a massage after a bath and before the (hopefully!) long night’s sleep.
Yet massage is so much more than a sleep aid (although it does that too). It’s a vital tool in communicating and bonding with your baby, creating an environment of trust, safety, and love.
Read on to find out some of our absolute favorite benefits of baby massage.
1. Baby massage help you communicate
Obstetrician and author of Loving Hands: The Traditional Art of Baby Massage, Frederick Leboyer, says massage is a primal language.
“Touching is the first communication a baby receives,” says Dr Leboyer. “The first language of its development is through the skin.”
Baby massage and parenting expert, Dr Elaine Schneider, agrees. She calls massage “touch communication, and says, “Infants communicate through their bodies. When you engage an infant in a massage, you begin to listen to the infant; you listen to sounds, you watch movements, you listen with your eyes, your ears and your heart.”
According to Dr Schneider, nurturing touch between a parent and their baby enriches physiological, social-emotional, and mind, body and spirit connections for both the baby and parent. “Being touched and caressed, being massaged, is food for the infant, food as necessary as minerals, vitamins and proteins,” says Dr Schneider.
2. It promotes bonding and attachment
Dr Schneider believes massage is a powerful way to bond with your baby.
“Two conditions that enhance the development of bonding are the ability of the parent to be sensitive in understanding and responding to his or her infant’s cues, and the amount and nature of the interactions between infant and parent,” says Dr Schneider. “It is through infant massage that bonding may be deepened.”
The Romans, famous for their elaborate public bathing rituals, are reported to add lavender to their bathwater – as well as to their beds, clothes, and hair.
(Interestingly, lavender is one of the most popular essential oils across the ancient world and is used in all our Lovekins range. The Chinese used it as medicinal oil. The Europeans used it for centuries as a way to rid young children of worms, lice, and fleas. Various historical reports mention its use in embalming corpses, taming lions and tigers and repelling mosquitoes. According to research from North Carolina State University, ancient medicinal uses for lavender include treatment of headache, hysteria, nervous palpitations, hoarseness, palsy, toothaches, sore joints, apoplexy, colic, coughs, and digestive systems.)
Ancient Egyptians were among the first to use chamomile, which features in many Lovekins products. Fragments of chamomile were found in excavated Egyptian tombs; while hieroglyphics show that wealthy Egyptian women used the crushed flowers on their skin. Egyptian mothers would have used it to soothe and cool and added it to shampoos and lotions. They also used it as medicine for its deeply calming effects.
Middle Eastern mums: For centuries, mothers have used chamomile to calm crying children and soothe digestive problems. In western Arabia, this is still a valued natural remedy. Use the essential oil of Roman chamomile, Chamaemelum Nobile, in an herbal compress made by placing one drop of essential oil in a bowl of warm water and soaking a folded piece of cotton flannel in the liquid before applying it to the abdominal area.
Across South East Asia, mothers used coconut oil to massage their babies, often followed by a compress (a softball of medicinal herbs). In Malaysia, they used a compress with herbs such as turmeric, lemongrass, kaffir lime, camphor tree, tamarind and ginger. Balinese mums used a “boreh” – a paste made from local ingredients such as rice, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric.
Indonesians loved using ylang ylang (also used in Lovekins skincare), both as moisturiser and massage oil. The ylang-ylang tree is native to Indonesia and the Philippines, and it was prized for its relaxing and soothing effects. Some reports say it was given to mothers after childbirth as a tonic in the form of tea.
Phoenicians (including Morocco): Argan oil – now experiencing a resurgence in western skincare products – was used to massage, hydrate and protect babies’ skin; and as a hair conditioner. Adults also used rhassoul—a brown clay from the Atlas mountains.
African mothers often used shea butter as a moisturiser, along with coconut oil.
Tahitian babies are lucky enough to benefit from “monoi” – a uniquely Tahitian oil that’s not actually from a monoi plant but is made by soaking the petals of gardenias in coconut oil. Priests used it to bless newborn babies.
Lovekins natural baby skincare uses many of these ancient ingredients, including coconut oil, honey, sweet almond oil, chamomile, lavender and ylang ylang.