- Written by Melissa Lockwood, DPM
Most parents don’t need an expert to tell them to hold, cuddle and rock their baby. And babies need to lots of touching for optimal emotional and physical development. Parents can take this a step further by giving their children massages.
I gave my daughter massages from infancy until about age three. My main focus was always her feet – not just because I am a podiatrist, but because the feet have numerous nerve endings. Massaging the feet is quite easy. Start by running your thumbs along the soles of your baby’s feet. Then massage from the bottom of foot; starting at the heel and working your way all the way up to the toes. Next massage the heel, as well as the sole with your thumbs. Don’t forget to rub the insteps and ankles as well and keep a light, gentle pressure. You don’t want to tickle and you aren’t trying to ease cramped muscles.
The best time for me was after giving her a bath. I would do a massage of the legs, feet, and bellyusing lotion and playing soothing music. Talking in soothing tones or reciting common nursery rhymes was also beneficial. At such a young age, this was also a great trick for helping her fall asleep. Who doesn’t want an easy way to help your baby sleep?
One thing to remember is to make sure you sanitize your hands and remove all jewelry before the massage. When applying the lotion to your child, make sure to warm the lotion in your hands to create a relaxed, comfortable experience for them. An important aspect of the massage is to find a manageable position for both you and the baby. I liked to sit on the floor against a wall with a pillow in front of me. This would help me not to tire out when massaging and also provide a sturdy surface to lean against. Another great idea is to use the baby’s changing table. The closeness gives reassurance to the child and the table provides stability.
Many studies have suggested that there are some important benefits to massage for infants such as reducing stress and boosting their immune system. No matter what studies might say, most will agree that it creates a very relaxing environment and can help you feel closer to your baby. I don’t think anyone outgrows the pleasant feeling of a foot massage, so why not keep it up for as long as you and your child enjoy the routine?
Dr. Lockwood is the owner and founder of Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates. You may contact their office for any foot or ankle concern at 309-661-9975 or visit them online at www.HeartlandFootAndAnkle.com