But it may have even more benefits: Proponents say that just five to 10 minutes of gentle touch daily can stimulate your baby’s digestion, boost immunity and prepare her for deeper, more restful sleep. Convinced? Here are some do’s and don’ts from Teresa Kirkpatrick-Ramsey, founder of Baby’s First Massage, a certification program in Dayton, Ohio.
- Get going. Start as soon as possible after birth.In addition to its health benefits, massage may help foster closeness between you and your baby.
- Lubricate your hands. Vegetable oil is ideal for delicate skin. About one teaspoon is adequate; rub between your hands to warm it before beginning.
- Use the right stroke. Up strokes are stimulating; down strokes are calming. Use only down strokes until your baby is 6 weeks old.
- Go out on a limb. The legs are the least sensitive area of the body and a great place to start.
- Follow a pattern. Babies like routine, so try to do your massage at about the same time each day—preferably before her last evening feeding to stimulate digestion and aid sleep.
- Massage a preemie. Due to her immature nervous system, she may find the act overstimulating. Wait until she reaches the equivalent of 32 weeks gestation.
- Go for scent .Avoid scented massage oils unless the ingredients are certified organic. Also avoid using mineral oil, which is derived from petroleum.
- Sweat the details. Don’t get too caught up in technique. Make up your own strokes, repeating each motion at least three times in each area.
- Uncover her. Keep your newborn wrapped up except for the body part you are massaging.
- Overdo it. Learn your baby’s “timeout” cues. If she fails to meet your gaze, splays her fingers or arches her back, she’s overstimulated. Time to call it quits.