Ayurvedic Baby Massage

According to Ayurveda, massage is a very important daily ritual for babies. It has many benefits for the baby as it imparts deep relaxation and good sleep, improves weight gain, aids digestion, improves circulation, and improves bonding. Here are some useful tips from Dr. Aparna on how to do it right and which oils to use.

How to massage your baby?

  • A baby massage should always be gentle, using rhythmic strokes with hands on the baby’s body.
  • With the baby lying on its back, start the massage with the head. Gently put 2-3 ml of virgin coconut oil over the crown, and glide the palm of your hand over the head in a circular motion 3-4 times. Be careful not to exert pressure on the crown until the 3rd month.
  • Massage the ears, face, and feet in a circular motion gently. One minute each will be sufficient, to begin with the newborns. Then move over to the body, hands, shoulders, chest, abdomen, and legs.
  • Massage both shoulders in a circular motion clockwise, and then up and down the arms, followed by the palms and backs of the hands, also clockwise.
  • Massage along the length of each finger, then go over the chest very gently.
  • Massage the abdomen using a circular motion around the navel in a clockwise direction.
  • Massage the hips in a circular, clockwise movement.
  • Massage up and down the legs.
  • Turn the baby over onto the side, left first, then right.
  • Massage the back very gently up and down in long, gentle strokes.
  • Massage the buttocks using circular motions.
  • Massage up and down the backs of the legs.
  • Once the baby starts flipping and is comfortably lying on the tummy, a good massage can be done by placing the on the stomach.
  • A good 10 minutes massage will be sufficient for the babies until the 3rd month. Gradually, you can go up to 30 minutes.

Golden rules to observe when massaging a baby

  • Massage should be done on an empty stomach or one hour after feeding.
  • Lukewarm oil is preferred.
  • Massage should be followed by a hot water bath, and lukewarm or normal body temperature water on the head. Soon after the bath, feed the baby as most babies get hungry after a good massage and bath.
  • Excess oil can be removed by mild herbal bath scrubs using chickpea flour, mung bean flour or baby wash.
  • Massage should be avoided when the baby has a cold, fever, indigestion, diarrhea, etc.
  • Massage can be done on a massage mat, make sure the room has a comfortable temperature.
  • Always look for the baby’s comfort and any signs of displeasure. Stop the massage if your baby is not enjoying it.
  • Take care not to spill oil on the eyes and nose.
  • Handle the baby gently, too much oil can make the baby slip from your arms!

Massage oils

  • Virgin coconut oil is considered the best for newborns up to three months.
  • Coconut milk with a pinch of turmeric powder is excellent if the baby is allergic to coconut oil or any oil medium.
  • Sesame, almond, and olive oils are other good and safe options.
  • DIY baby body massage oil: Take a teaspoon of crushed sesame seeds, 3-4 grains of crushed cardamom seeds, and 5 grams of turmeric, add 50 ml coconut milk and 100 ml coconut oil, boil, and evaporate the water content. Be careful not to burn the oil, strain it, and store it in an airtight container.
  • DIY head massage oil: Warm 100 ml oil with 10 grams of cumin and 4-5 crushed basil leaves. Don’t burn the herbs and the oil, turn off the heat when the herbs turn golden brown and strain. Let the oil cool down and store it in an airtight container.

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

Aparna K. BAMS, MD, PhD

Aparna is one of the few specialists worldwide with a PhD in Ayurveda. Born into an Ayurvedic family which operates a traditional Ayurvedic Panchakarma hospital in Kerala, India, she grew up observing her father, the renowned Dr Padmanabhan.

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