Health

Step by step: Massage for children

In addition to working on your baby’s physical tensions, massages allow you to spend quality, alone time with your little treasure. Don’t focus on the time, just take a few minutes to live and enjoy the moment. Here’s a very simple routine, dating back several years but still taught today. It’s Frédérick Leboyer’s Shantala technique.

A few basic tips
  • Baby should be completely naked during the massage… no diaper!;
  • The room should be properly heated;
  • Use warm oil;
  • Preferably use natural oils rather than mineral ones;
  • Avoid doing the massage after breastfeeding or giving the bottle;
  • To do the massage, you should be sitting on the floor, with your legs outstretched and your back straight;
  • Put a towel on your legs, where you’ll put baby;
  • Communication should not be done verbally, but rather visually;
  • The room should be dark, quiet, and without any stimuli;
  • Your baby should be at least one month old for this massage routine;
  • Always keep a hand in contact with your baby’s skin;
  • For each of the steps listed below, start by applying a slight pressure and keep the slow pace, but gradually apply more pressure.
Technique for every body part

Chest

Put some oil on your hands. Place them on your child’s chest, and move them apart. Each hand will move toward the sides, along the ribs. You then bring your hands back to their starting position and repeat the motion. Your hands are working together, but in opposite directions.

Now, your hands will work alternatively. Starting from the baby’s left side (which is on your right), your right hand moves up toward the opposite shoulder. In doing so, it makes its way across the small chest to reach the right shoulder. Your left hand then moves up toward the baby’s left shoulder, and your hands keep working like this alternatively.

You’re continuously making an « X » on your baby’s chest, going from the shoulder to the side, and vice versa.

Arms

With your left hand, gently take your baby’s hand to stretch their arm. With your right hand, grasp your baby's shoulder, meaning that your fingers will form a small bracelet that you will slowly move up along the child’s arm while doing little rotations. Once you’ve reached the end of the arm, your right hand joins your left hand. Your hands will alternate, always moving from to the shoulder to the end of the tiny arm.

Hands

With your thumbs, massage the small palm by going from the palm of the hand toward the fingers. Then take the fingers and simply bend them.

Stomach

Your hands work alternatively. Starting from the chest, where the ribs open, move your hands down toward the lower abdomen. Bring your hands back to you one after the other.

Legs

You will proceed exactly as you did with the arms, hands, and fingers. Position your baby across your legs, with their head lying on your left. You have access to their back and buttocks.

Back

Put your hands on your baby’s back at shoulder height. Your hands move up and down the back alternatively, in the same manner, and with the same pressure as if you were working some dough with a rolling pin. Your hands lay flat and you’re mostly working with the palm.

Now, only your left hand will work, moving down from the neck to the buttocks. And moving up, and down again, etc. It’s not a brush, there’s a lot of power in your hand. The slower and more continuous the movement is, the deeper it is. With your right hand, grasp the baby’s buttocks firmly to counteract the left hand’s push.

Finally, your left hand continues to travel on the baby’s back from top to bottom, but instead of stopping at the buttocks, it continues its movement down to the thighs, legs and eventually reaching the heels. Move back up and down again.

Face

Start by massaging the forehead. With the tip of your fingers, start in the middle of the forehead and move to the sides, following the top of the eyebrows. Do the same movement toward the middle, and repeat. Every time, your fingers go a little further out, to the temples, eyes, cheeks, etc.

With your thumbs, you now gently move up on both sides of the baby’s nose, then down, and back up again, etc.

Place your thumbs on the baby’s closed eyes. If the eyes are open, use your thumbs to close them. From there, move your thumbs downward, following the edge of the nose and moving toward the corners of the mouth.

3 Hatha yoga exercises to end the massage

Grab the baby’s arms and cross them over their chest. Open them up, going back to the starting position, and repeat the motion.

Grab a foot and a hand from the opposite side, and cross them over. The baby’s foot will touch the opposite shoulder. Bring everything back to the starting position and repeat.

Grab the baby’s feet and cross their legs by bringing them on their belly. Return to the starting position by opening and stretching the legs. Repeat the motion.

You can end the routine by giving your baby a bath. It’s not a bath to wash them, but simply to submerge them and allow them to relax before you bundle them up and put them to bed.

A massage routine varies from one person to another. You might only do a few steps of the massage, while others will spend more time on certain areas of the body. The duration of the massage or the choice of movements are not important; what matters is the quality of the movements, environment and time you’re spending with your child. You will establish your own routine and add your own movements. This technique is there to guide you and teach you some basic motions. It’s up to you, now, to develop your routine!

Inspiring Books
  • NEW BOOK OF BABY AND CHILD MASSAGE, Robert Toporek, Running Press, February 2001, ISBN : 0762402911
  • HEALTH & HATHA YOGA, Swami Sivananda, Integral Yoga Dist, June 1985, ISBN : 0949027030

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