What You Really Need to Know About Massage Oils for Baby

In the 20 years I have been working in natural health, I have encountered some unanticipated questions from my readers. Once when I was a guest on a call-in radio show, a caller asked if I could recommend a good sunscreen to wear around nuclear power plants. I responded that if you really think a nuclear power plant is going to explode, perhaps vacating the area would be better than putting on sunblock.

One time a reader asked me if women always become pregnant when they ovulate. No without sexual intercourse or artificial insemination, no. And I was recently asked if babies should be massaged in fish oil. My first thought was, "Absolutely not if there is a cat in the house. Cat tongues can be very scratchy."

Fish oil is a product you take in you, not one you rub on you. Your baby is not going to impress the neighbors or the in-laws favorably while smelling like a sardine factory. But there are other massage oils that are appropriate for baby massage.

Choosing Massage Oil for Baby

The most important thing to remember about any massage oil for babies is that infants have delicate skin. A baby's skin absorbs essential oils and alcohol that an older child's skin or adult skin will not.

Essential oils and perfumes are drying, and certain ingredients can cause rashes. You don't want to give your a baby a massage with any product that contains:

  • Calomine (which is a counter-irritant, that is, it relieves itching by causing pain),
  • Eucalyptus, which can cause rashes,
  • Tea tree oil, which can cause problems if the baby gets it into its mouth
  • Fragrances or perfumes of any kind. The aromatherapy oils such as lavender and peppermint are just too strong for a baby's skin.

On the other hand, look for products that include:

  • Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), which soothes the skin and is especially useful for diaper rash,
  • Bisobolol, which deactivates irritants from soap,
  • Waxes, or even
  • Mineral oil, which although inorganic, is natural.

Your own clean fingertips, however, can be just as soothing as any massage oil if you know how to do baby massage.

Baby Massage Do's and Don'ts

A happy and healthy massage for your baby is accomplished by following certain do's and don'ts.

Do:

  • Give your baby massage while he or she is still warm and snuggly fresh from the bath.
  • The changing table is a convenient place to do the massage, but any flat surface will do.
  • You may wish to cover the areas not being massaged with a light blanket to keep baby warm.
  • Keep your hands on baby at all times so baby does not roll off the massage table.
  • Apply any lotion to your hands first, not to the baby. Warm the lotion in your hands and spread across your palms and fingertips, so that baby receives only a light application.
  • Keeping baby on his or her back, gently touch the forehead, face, and around the ears. Work downward to the feet. Any area under the diaper does not need "massage" unless there is diaper rash.
  • Maintain eye contact with your baby, talking or singing as you do the massage.
  • Rub the torso with light, circular motions. Massage arms and legs, and each finger and toe separately.

Don't:

  • Try to massage muscles. Baby's body is simply not large enough for muscle massage that does not injure adjacent organs.
  • Rub from the sides to the center of the torso. Always massage away from the heart.
  • Rub massage oil on the baby. Too much massage oil can wrinkle baby's skin and set up infections.
  • Rush the massage. The best use of baby massage is to help baby get into sleep mode-which also will give you a chance to rest!

Eucerin Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment is a better choice than anything you can make at home. If you don't want to use a commercial product, pure olive oil is best for lubricating your hands before giving baby a massage. Probiotics and colostrum in baby lotions may help heal eczema or rashes, but they are not necessary, or helpful, for baby massage.

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