Are baby massages necessary?

Baby massages

Light massages ease the tension in the muscles and pacify the exhaustion, making them sleep better.

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • There comes a time when a baby massage is not a luxury but mandatory.
  • This is in cases where the newborn has an underlying condition like weak bones or wobbly legs.

In my quest to be the best possible parent to my son, I found myself susceptible to a host of advice from friends and relatives. Never mind that most of them were yet to have children of their own.

A particular one that seemed to recur as hordes of visitors popped in to visit the newborn was the need for a baby massage.

“His bones need straightening”

“If you don’t massage him he will grow into a weakling”

“Children who are not massaged take longer to start walking”

With threats of a weak child trickling in, I considered the idea. A friend proposed a baby masseuse who, according to her, was most sought after in this city.

Fellow doubting Thomases, you know the rule of thumb yes? Seeing is believing. So I booked an appointment for a sit-in session to see her “magical hands” at work.

That woman boiled some herbs and brewed a concoction that she poured on a shallow basin.

The client of the day, an adorable three-month baby girl, was lowered into the steamy basin.

Magical hands — allow me to call her that – scooped the mixture and rubbed it all over the baby’s body. Then all hell broke loose. The baby let out a blood curdling screech as Magical hands nonchalantly twisted her limbs this way and that way.

I winced with every twist. The mother to this traumatized baby seemed visibly shaken. For the life of me I couldn’t fathom why anyone would voluntarily do this to their baby.

I had so many questions. For starters, weren’t massages meant to be relaxing? Baby had now turned to sobbing desperately like a teenager who had just lost first love.

Magic Hands was acting more like deaf years now, completely unperturbed by the baby’s wails. She kept pressing her frail skin like a roller compacting tarmac.

As I walked out of that room, my mind was already decided that my son was not being massaged by that woman.

Sure, every parent needs a miracle once in a while raising a child, even magic if it comes to that. But from my experience, we were going to make it without Magic Hands painful intervention.

Horrible experience

However, that horrible experience didn’t quench my thirst on this issue of baby massages so I did a little digging. The first finding was that since newborns sleep for at least 20 hours a day, their chest and upper abdomen sometimes ache, which affects their sleeping patterns.

Light massages ease the tension in the muscles and pacify the exhaustion, making them sleep better.

The good news is that these light ones are not painful and can be done by the parents after a warm bath. They should, however, not go overboard as to hurt or cause discomfort to the baby.

Secondly, there comes a time when a baby massage is not a luxury but mandatory. This is in cases where the newborn has an underlying condition like weak bones or wobbly legs.

This should, however, be diagnosed at a medical facility and a physiotherapy plan issued to help rectify the condition. A masseuse at this point becomes the difference between the baby growing up with abnormal limbs or being saved early enough.

The process is painful and preferably done by a professional because they understand corrective physio. Parents who choose to do it themselves must undergo training.

Sometimes, the weak limbs have to be tied so tightly with a bandage to help in straightening, but it is usually for the good of the baby in the long run.

For parents whose babies have normal limbs and choose to massage their little ones for the sake of it, there is the option of twice every day, after a bath and before sleeping at night.

The frequency is dependent on how the baby responds to the routine you come up with, information gathered from cues.

As for me and my house, those extreme massages are a hard pass. I thank God my son is six years old now and he is a super strong boy whose kick can rival a mule’s. He is actually a footballer, a very good one at that.

Here’s my take: Before trying out anything on your baby, seek professional guidance. Don’t just do it because it is the newest craze in town.

Hillary has raised his son on his own from the time he was six months. hillarylisimba@gmail.com

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