A Simple Routine
To perform the massage you can hold the baby on your knees, or you can place the baby on a pad on the floor or in the crib, whichever is most comfortable for both of you. Choose a space that allows you to keep your back straight while you move your body in rhythm with your strokes. Make sure the room is warm. Your oil should be room temperature, but you should also warm it a bit between your hands before you apply it. Your hands should be clean, your nails trimmed, and your jewelry removed. Undress your baby and wrap him in a towel.
Wherever you massage the baby, create a quiet space for you and the infant. The TV and radio are best turned off, and if you play music choose a relaxing tape with gentle sounds. Arrange for massage time to be quiet playtime for any siblings, too.
Try to establish a regular routine with your infant. Give your baby time to digest his food, but make sure your baby is comfortable so he does not need to eat while you are in the middle of a massage.
Begin with the Legs and Feet
Babies love to have their feet and legs touched so this is a good area to begin. Lay your baby face up with his feet near you. Talk to your infant, explaining what you are doing as you unfold the towel from around him. Use a small amount of oil, just enough to allow your hands to glide on your baby's legs. Hold the right foot with your left hand and gently stroke up the leg from the ankle to the thigh and back down again, repeating three times. Place your hand under the leg and glide up and back on the underside three times.
Grasp the baby's ankle gently, lift the leg, and use a milking stroke from the ankle to the thigh and back again. Switch hands and, with the same milking stroke, work the thigh to the hip and buttock and back to the ankle again. If your baby likes this stroke, do it again. If the infant seems fidgety complete only one cycle. The baby will become more accustomed to this stroke the more often you massage your infant.
Now bring both your hands to one side of the baby's right leg. Beginning at the ankle, use a wringing motion, moving each hand in the opposite direction as you wring up the leg to the thigh and back down again. Repeat. As you twist back and forth be gentle—this is a wringing, not a friction, movement. Lift the leg up and wring to the thigh and gently effleurage down to the foot.
The foot is one of the best places to massage on an infant. In fact, you could just massage the feet and the baby would relax. Notice how calm the baby becomes as you hold the right foot in your hands and gently stretch the sole of the foot with your thumbs.
With your fingers resting on the top of the foot, let your thumbs meet at center of the bottom of the foot. Stretch the skin out to the sides and back again. Continue this stretching down the entire surface to the heel.
Cup the foot between both your hands and gently wring the foot, up and down. Using your thumbs make gentle circles around the ankle and circle onto the top of the foot. Slowly squeeze each toe very gently and then press your thumbs into the ball of the foot. Let your thumbs make walking movements along the ball of the foot. Rest both your hands on the foot, feeling the heat from your palms permeate in the foot. Repeat this sequence on the left leg and foot, starting with the wringing motion from the ankle to the thigh.
Next, bend each leg by holding the foot at the ankle and bending the knee. Gently stretch out each leg and bend it again. Begin to press and stretch the legs at opposite times as though the baby is riding a bicycle. Now bend both legs at the same time and stretch those legs out once more. Gently roll each leg between your hands from the ankle to the hip and back again.
Chest and Abdomen
The natural progression from the legs is to move up to the abdomen and chest region. Massaging the abdomen helps with digestion and elimination; massaging the chest helps stimulate the lungs and the heart. The baby should be more relaxed now, especially if you have continued to talk quietly, letting him know what you are doing.
Begin with a gentle press on your baby's belly, turning this press into a circle that moves from the right to the left. Continue circling clockwise on your baby's stomach with steady, gentle movements.
Failure to thrive is an infant's inability to grow and flourish. Traditionally this condition was linked to inadequate pituitary production, especially the growth hormone. Later studies proved that the insufficient hormone production from the pituitary gland is caused by the lack of parental love. Massage is one of the tools used to correct this lack.
Use your fingers and gently trace the outline of this circle from the right side of the abdomen up to the waist, across the belly, and down the left side. Continue to make slow, deliberate kneading strokes inside this circle, following in the same clockwise direction. The pressure here is still gentle but steady as you move around the area of the colon and small intestines. Eventually you will end up at the belly button, where you press gently and hold for the count of five.
Place both your hands on the baby's chest, with your palms on the belly and your fingers resting on the rib cage. This is a very comforting position because the pressure from your warm, loving hands gives the baby a feeling of security. Gently press your hands out to the baby's sides, stretching and pressing as you move. Finally, circle down the sides to the belly and back up the center to the chest again. Repeat.
Hands and Arms
Effleurage down the chest and up again as you move your hands across the baby's shoulders and down the arms. Bring both hands back to the shoulders and glide down both arms to the fingers. Repeat this stroke again, gently stretching the baby's arms out straight. You may glide and stretch two or three times as you are opening the baby's arms with this move.
If your baby pulls away and wraps her arms close to her chest, do not force the arms apart or away from this protective stance. Some babies do not like having their arms massaged. Simply massage the baby's arms in this hugging posture. As the baby becomes more familiar with the touch, she will open her arms.
Now lift the right arm and milk from the hand to the underarm area. Gently stroke with your fingers under the arm, moving your fingers toward the heart. Squeeze and twist in a wringing stroke up the arm and down; repeat. Lightly stroke down both sides of the arm to the fingers and gently open the hand. Next, stroke with your fingertips on the inside of the baby's hand as you rest the hand in your other palm. Use your thumb and index finger to press each tiny finger, gently. Do not pull the fingers! Make small circles around both sides of the baby's wrist before you finish by stroking the top of the hand. Repeat this process on the other arm.
Place your baby on his stomach with his legs stretched toward you. He may be on a flat surface or across your legs—whichever both of you are comfortable with. Use a soft effleurage stroke, moving down the back, over the buttocks, and up the back again. Place your hands horizontally across the baby's back, one hand leading the other. Use a soft effleurage stroke and gently glide down the back, over the buttocks, and up to the neck several times.
Place both hands on the back with your fingers facing the shoulders. Glide up to the shoulders, along the side of the neck and down the backs of the arms. Repeat this stroke. Now place both hands on the back and stroke with the entire hand down the back to the heels, using firm light pressure. Repeat.
Bring both hands onto the back and circle with your fingertips over the entire back area. Then gently knead the buttocks with the palms of your hands in small circles. Stroke each of your hands down the leg to the heel, gently holding the heels. Finish with soft feather touches, staying in contact with your baby while you softly stroke from the neck to the feet. Place both hands on the back and rest.
Turn the baby face up, resting both your hands ever so lightly on your baby's head as you look into his eyes and talk to him. Softly stroke down the sides of the skull to the jaw, bringing your fingers to the chin. If your baby likes this movement repeat it two or three times. Play peekaboo by placing your open hands lightly over your baby's face. Then use your fingers to stretch the skin softly across the forehead. Gently circle with your fingertips along the sides of the forehead.
Using your thumbs and index fingers pinch along the jaw up to the cheekbones. Place your thumbs on either side of the nose and stroke up along the side of the nose and out across the cheekbones. Stroke across the cheekbones and up to the ears, letting your fingers brush lightly on the ears. Place your thumbs on the inside of the ear lobes and your index fingers on the fleshy outside. Easily and lightly stroke down the lobes, squeezing them between your thumbs and index fingers. Stroke down the earlobes several times, and watch how relaxed the baby becomes.
The earlobe is a point used in reflexology and other pressure methods for relaxation. All babies know this innately—a baby will stroke her ear when she is tired and needs comfort. The gentle stroking of the lobe triggers the nervous system to release chemicals that help relax the body.
The best way to finish the massage is to perform some easy stretches with your baby. The infant is already lying face up, so hold the baby's hands in your hands and stretch the arms across the chest, and then open them. Continue to bring the arms in and across, and open, perhaps singing or talking as you make exercise play. Carefully stretch the arms up over the head, out to the sides, and then down, essentially moving in a semicircle.
Next, hold your baby's ankles in your hands and stretch one leg over the other across the abdomen, repeating several times. Now gently stretch the legs down away from the torso in a straight line before pushing the legs up to a bent-knee position. Repeat this move twice, making sure your baby is enjoying the stretching. Using gentle effleurage, stroke across your baby's body from shoulder to hip, continuing down the leg and off the foot. Press your hands easily into your baby's chest and hold. Thank your baby for a wonderful experience.