As a newborn, my mum ensured that I was thoroughly massaged and rubbed. By the end of it I had enough oil on my body to pass off as a baby seal, screeching and writhing to break free. I say this with utmost confidence because my mum also ensured that embarrassing photographic evidence was available to me at an age-appropriate moment in my life, which I cannot unsee.
In India it’s a norm to hire a malishwali (masseuse) to massage and bathe your baby. We too had decided to hire one for our child. My wife started interviewing a few candidates but wasn’t pleased with the results. Most of them chewed tobacco and we were just not comfortable with this, hygiene-wise. But we pushed on, until very dear friends of ours, Natali Thakkar Asrani and Sandeep Asrani told us that they massaged and bathed their daughter themselves. They really got us thinking, and after much deliberation we decided to do the same. We went ahead and haven’t turned back since.
I wanted very much to be a part of this and we decided to massage her every night once I was back from work around 8.30pm. Here are some pointers I want to share with parents who do decide to massage their newborn.
- Be confident, don’t be scared – To be honest we were a little worried about how we were going to pull this off. A newborn is so delicate and sensitive but when you do it the first time that fear will dissipate immediately. Be confident because the baby will enjoy this time with you.
- Airtight Room – Before you start to unclothe your child, make sure you shut all windows, doors, fans and air conditioner units. You don’t want any draft of air to hit your baby.
- Quick Dry Sheet – Place the child on a quick dry sheet before you start applying the oil. This is a great product for two reasons; one, it waterproofs the surface you place it on and two, the product is anti-slip. In this case it helps it helps avoid those nast stains thanks to the oil.
- Sanitize – Make sure you clean your baby’s privates with a wet wipe before you start massaging. Nine times out of 10, her diaper is going to be loaded when you remove it before the massage. Hygiene is very important.
- Oil – We only use cold-pressed coconut oil for massaging. Coconut oil is a natural barrier protection, so make sure you use it generously, especially in and around the diaper region.
- Cut you nails – Very, very important. Babies are not going to be obedient and stay still, while you give them oily rub-downs. They are going to writhe and move about and in that event your nails can do some pretty serious damage. So be very cautious.
- Rub-Downs – Though I use the term massage quite carelessly, what you really are doing is rub-downs. This is basically applying very little pressure, as opposed to a hardcore massage which involves pressing down on muscles with a lot of strength.
- Skin folds – Newborns have a lot of skin folds – elbows, knees, hips, underarms and nape. Make sure you oil and rub those areas thoroughly. You are bound to find lint and fluff, which needs to be cleaned regularly.
- Palms – Babies have incredible grip and they will grab on to anything – clothes, hair, skin and beards. None of these are going to dirt-free, so make sure you open their plams and rub them and remove as much gunk as possible. This makes it easier to clean them later while bathing.
- Head and ears – Be very careful when you are giving your baby a head massage, the neck is still very wobbly and weak. Also some parts of the skull bone may not be fused and they will be soft. So don’t go crazy shaking their heads. Also make sure you reach the back of ears to clean out all that dead skin and dirt.
- Tummy Time – At some point you are going to flip the baby on the tummy to rub her back, once you are done, leave them there for a bit. Since babies are gas bags it is good to give them regular tummy time. What we also noticed is that it’s a good indicator to check their neck strength, as they will constantly try and lift their head higher.
- Crying – Children cry, that’s their primary trade, so don’t get worked up, they are probably annoyed for getting handled excessively. We play music to calm our daughter, sometimes it works… sometimes! Other times we just distract her by talking and keeping her engaged.
- Poop and Pee – There is a very high chance that your baby will poop or pee or both while you are massaging her. This is where the quick dry sheet will be most useful, so be prepared.
I look at this exercise as a bonding moment with my daughter, hence we do this only in the evenings, once I am back from work and I know I won’t be disturbed.
After this, it’s time for bath! Will share my experiences with how to bathe a newborn in the next post.