In a randomized, controlled study on the effects of massage therapy on preterm infants, greater weight gain was reported for the massage therapy group. The study involved moderate pressure along with flexion and extension of the upper and lower extremities. The massage was given for 10 to 15 minutes, three times a day.
The study reported greater weight gain for those receiving massage therapies versus the standard care control group. Sesame oil processed with herbs is considered the best oil for newborns. Among the commonly used herbal oils are bala talia, bala lakshadi oil, ashwagandhadi oil, and bala ashwagandhadi Taila. Otherwise, ghee, coconut oil or just sesame oil may be used. This may be done after doing a patch test on the infant’s skin, testing for any allergic reaction.
How to Do Ayurvedic New-born Massages
Step 1: Use comfortably warm massage oil by keeping the bottle in a warm water bath. Test the temperature on the back of your hand before applying it to the baby.
Step 2: Wash your hands with antiseptic soap and dry with a sterile towel. Pour some oil in your palm and dip fingertips into the warm oil and apply lightly to the entire body. Wait for 4-5 minutes to let some of the oil absorb into the skin. Massage the entire body, applying even pressure with the whole palm rather than the fingers.2
Step 3: Apply light pressure on sensitive areas like the abdomen and heart. Use more oil and spend more time where nerve endings are concentrated. The soles of the feet and palms of the hands are good places.
Step 4: Use circular motions over rounded areas such as the head or joints. Use straight strokes on straight areas such as the arms and legs.
Special precaution: Avoid pulling on the limbs and crossing the legs or the arms. Do not hyper-flex or hyperextend any body part. Avoid massaging on the bregma, the soft area on the top of the head, until it firms up. Just put some oil on it and leave it there. After the massage, let the child relax for 10-15 minutes. After one hour, give the child a warm water bath.
When To Start New-born Massage
- New-born massages can be given immediately after birth once the baby is vitally stable.
- The only prerequisite to this is that the baby should be vitally stable. There should be no signs of illness or sickness.
- Signs of illness or sickness include lethargy, refusal to feed, convulsions, respiratory distress and more.
- Check with your doctor or health care provider to see if your new-born baby is ready for massage.
- In a vitally stable and healthy new-born, massage can be given once daily either in the morning or evening.
- If one does not start new-born massage after birth, then there is no specific time or indication to start the procedure. You may begin as long as the baby is in good health.
When to Give an Infant a Massage
- One can give abhyanga to a baby at any time of the day. The ideal time to do abhyanga though is in the morning.
- Take care that the room temperature is not less than 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit in order to prevent hypothermia to the baby.
- Windows should be closed and there should be no drafts while doing the massage.
- Continue abhyanga until the completion of infantile age, or up to one year of life. It can be done every day in the absence of illness.
Benefits of New-born Massage
In new-borns, massage pacifies Vata dosha and strengthens the bones. It improves the strength of the muscle and tendons. It induces good sleep, causes weight gain and growth.
Contraindications for New-born Massage
Massage should not be done if the child appears sick or has a fever, congenital heart disease, has just fed, has indigestion or is throwing up. Wait for two hours after feeding to begin the massage.
All the above regimens are practiced in Prasadini ayurnikethana selectively and judiciously depending on the disease condition and patient condition.