Shishu Abhyanga (Baby Massage): Benefits, How to & More Child/Kids Health
Shishu Abhyanga (Baby Massage): Benefits, How to & More
APRIL 14, 2023

In our lifespan, we tend to grow most rapidly during our childhood years. The bones lengthen, muscles become sturdier, sense organs get stronger; the brain grows rapidly, and so does immunity.

With so many activities during childhood, the body must have sufficient care & maintenance. This can happen in two ways –

  1. Healthy and nutritious food that facilitates healthy metabolism
  2. Care of the body through Oil massage.

Oil Massage for Babies

The traditional practice of Abhyanga done to babies is very much in accordance with the principles of Ayurveda newborn care. Childbirth is a natural process involving considerable stress & strain on both to mother & child. Such activities increase Vata dosha in the body. According to Ayurveda, Abhyanga (oil massage) is best for controlling aggravated Vata dosha. Traditionally we find babies being given an oil bath and then covered well with warm clothing so that they feel well. A balanced Vata Dosha is essential for babies' proper growth and development.

Abhyanga is a fantastic way of developing a bond between mother & child. The touch or tactile sensation creates a sense of security & pleasure in both the mother & the child.

Previously modern doctors would negate the idea of baby massage as unhygienic & unscientific. But current research has proven the benefits of baby massage. Tactile stimulation caused during massage releases hormones like Oxytocin which creates a pleasurable feeling both in mother & child; it improves their mental bonding. The physical maneuver done during the massage is helpful in the child's neuromuscular development. Studies have also shown that oil is not just a lubricant; various oils used have other added benefits like weight gain & providing nutrition.

Benefits of Abhyanga for Babies

  • It strengthens the bond between a parent and their baby. It promotes skin-to-skin contact, eye contact, and communication.
  • It helps your baby to relax and feel more comfortable.
  • It helps in proper Neuromuscular wellness.
  • It improves the luster of the skin
  • It builds the immunity of the child
  • Enhances the natural sleep of the baby
  • It improves thermoregulation (temperature control)
  • It nourishes hair & scalp
  • Help stimulate the digestive system and ease colic, constipation, and gas symptoms.
  • It helps in proper weight gain
  • It is helpful in the overall growth & development of the baby /toddler

When & How to Massage a Newborn Baby

  • It should be done preferably in the morning or the evening, on an empty stomach. If the baby has been fed, waiting an hour before doing the massage is best.
  • Baby can be seated or spread on a tub or clean sheet to massage.
  • Oil should be slightly warm before being applied over the body. You can take the required amount of oil in a bowl and place it in warm water to heat it.
  • Use gentle, circular motions with your fingertips or palms to massage your baby's body. Start at the head and work your way down to the feet, using light pressure.
  • Watch for signs that your baby is uncomfortable or not enjoying the massage. If your baby seems upset or fussy, stop the massage and try again later.
  • Avoid massaging your baby's face, head, and genital area. Also, avoid putting pressure on the soft spot on the top of the head, known as the fontanelle.
  • Pressure should never be applied while massaging babies
  • The hands & nails of the caregiver have to be hygienically maintained while massaging babies. Nails should be trimmed to avoid injuring sensitive skin
  • Contact of oil with eyes has to be avoided
  • Some babies may be allergic to a few oils; apply a drop on hands to see to check for any reactions.
  • Care should be taken while holding the baby and massaging to prevent falls and injury.
  • A lukewarm water bath should always follow Abhyanga. Ensure the water is not too hot and comfortable for the baby.
  • After Abhyanga baby should be well-covered & kept warm, the baby should never be exposed to cold wind.

It is important to note that baby massage should be done gently and with care, and parents should always consult with their pediatrician before starting a massage routine.

Contra – indications for Abhyanga

  • It should not be done soon after feeding.
  • It should be avoided if there are signs of indigestion like vomiting, loose stools, etc.
  • It should be avoided when the baby has a cold, cough, fever, etc.
  • In premature & low birth weight babies, please consult a doctor for advice on oil massage.
  • If your baby has an infection or skin rash, avoid massaging the affected area as it may cause further irritation or spread the infection.

Baby Massage Oils

Many oils can be used for baby massage, and the choice often comes down to personal preference, climatic conditions, and your baby’s skin type. Here are some oils that are commonly used for baby massage:

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  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil is a popular choice for baby massage due to its moisturizing and nourishing properties. It is also gentle on the skin and has a pleasant scent.
  • Almond oil: Almond oil is rich in vitamins and minerals and is easily absorbed by the skin. It is a good option for babies with dry skin or eczema.
  • Jojoba oil: Jojoba oil is a non-greasy oil easily absorbed by the skin. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is a good option for babies with sensitive skin.
  • Grapeseed oil: Grapeseed oil is a light oil easily absorbed by the skin. It is high in antioxidants and can help to soothe dry, itchy skin.
  • Olive oil: Olive oil is a natural moisturizer often used for baby massage. It is a good option for babies with dry or sensitive skin.
  • Nalpamaradi Keram - Kerala Ayurveda Nalpamaradi keram is a healing body and face oil that helps reduce sun damage and tan. It is made of the bark of four ficus trees in a soothing base of coconut oil. This gentle oil is safe even for babies. Just dilute it with an equal quantity of coconut oil. Because of the presence of original turmeric, it might leave a yellow tinge.
  • Eladi keram - Eladi keram is a soothing body oil suitable even for kids. Dilute it with an equal quantity of coconut oil and apply it. It is very helpful in healing dry skin and eczema.

It is important to choose oils that are pure and free of additives and to do a patch test on a small area of the skin before using any new product on your baby. Additionally, it is always best to consult with your pediatrician before starting a massage routine, especially if your baby has any underlying medical conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

A baby massage is called Shishu Abhyanga in Sanskrit, and is recommended that it be done in the morning, ensuring the baby is on an empty stomach. It is also imperative to use the right Ayurvedic baby massage oil, depending on the Dosha type. Vata-related oil for normal or dry skin, Pitta-related oil for sensitive skin, and Kapha-related oil for oily skin and avoid contact with the baby’s eyes. The oil must be warmed slightly before being applied and care must be taken not to apply pressure while massaging. It is also good to go through some stretches for the baby. When it comes to the bath after the massage, it must be ensured that lukewarm water is used. Once the massage and bath are done, care must be taken to keep the baby warm and wrapped sufficiently. Note: The Abhyanga must not be done if the baby suffers from a cold, cough, or digestive discomfort.

The Nalpamaradi Thailam is made using the bark of four trees, most notably the Peepal tree. This Thailam is used mainly for fighting against sun damage and tan. There is also merit to the fact this oil heals and nourishes the skin and hence can be used for babies. As a general rule, though, precaution must be taken that the oil isn’t too harsh for the baby. It is recommended that the Nalpamaradi Thailam be mixed with Almond Oil to make it suitable for the baby's delicate skin.

Massaging babies with a herbal oil before bath helps keep skin nourished and moisturized. Keep your baby's skin clean and dry by washing it regularly with mild, fragrance-free soap and drying it thoroughly. Apply a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer to your baby's skin to keep it soft and supple. Choose a moisturizer specifically formulated for babies, and avoid using adult skincare products as they may be too harsh for their delicate skin. Avoid harsh chemicals on your baby's skin, including fragrances, dyes, and other additives. These can cause irritation and dryness and increase the risk of allergic reactions. Limit your baby's exposure to the sun and protect their skin with a hat and protective clothing. You can use baby-safe sunscreen if your baby is 6 months or older. A healthy diet can promote healthy skin in babies, just as in adults. Ensure your baby gets plenty of nutrients from breast milk or formula, and start introducing healthy solid foods at the appropriate age.

Mustard oil is commonly used in some cultures as a massage oil for babies, but it is important to exercise caution when using it on a baby's skin. Mustard oil can irritate some babies' skin, particularly if they have sensitive skin or eczema. Before using it, it's best to do a patch test on a small skin area to ensure your baby does not have an adverse reaction. Ensuring that the mustard oil is pure and of good quality is important. Contaminated or adulterated oil can be harmful to your baby's skin. Mustard oil is often used in massage to warm the baby's skin. However, it's important to avoid overheating your baby, particularly in hot weather. Mustard oil has a strong smell that some babies may find unpleasant. It's best to avoid using it if your baby seems uncomfortable or if you are sensitive to the smell. If you're concerned about using mustard oil on your baby's skin, many other oils, such as coconut oil, almond oil, and jojoba oil, can be used for massages.




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