My patient shared a video of her baby’s massage or “Malish”. I was aghast and dumb stuck looking at the way the “Malishwali” lady was doing the baby massage. I shared the video on face book and other social media and it went viral! It has got more than 260000 views in a span to 2 days. Many women called me or sent messages to thank me for this video. Many expressed that “whether to massage or no” is a common reason of conflict between the new and old generation. Thus I thought of penning down this article on Do’s and Don’ts of baby massage.
Oil massage to the new born is an age old practice in our country. Ayurveda describes “Abhyangam” &“ Mardan” as a therapy. It does state that “Abhyangam” if correctly done improves circulation and muscle tone. However over centuries the original science has got drowned in the mysterious myths. It is common to see that “Malsihwali Bai” continuing to do unscientific massage followed by so called “exercises”… Even senior ladies in the family allow it under the genuine belief that it is beneficial to the baby!! Here are some myths regarding baby massage and exercises:
• baby becomes tall
• baby ‘s joints become flexible
• the skin, eyes improve
• resistance power improves
• baby sleeps well.
Let me tell you that there is NO scientific evidence to any of the above. But it is true that one has no counter argument when senior ladies in the house say that they have been seeing/ doing this for so many years and nothing has gone wrong so far. Honestly that is the real problem to tackle. I spoke to many paediatricians, orthopaedic surgeons and Ayruveda practitioners. All confirmed that they have seen complications and problems because of wrongly done massage and/or exercises.
I am sure all of us have taken an oil massage in our life? Do you like if someone gives a massage with “heavy hand”? Does your body not get soar and pain? Don’t you think that the babies will also be experiencing the same? Or just because the babies cannot talk we consider that they are happy while the massage and acrobatic exercises are being done?
When the Malishwali bai does some acrobatic stunts with the babies and claim that the legs get straight or baby starts walking early, we must understand few basics of anthropology. We see that a new born of an animal like cow or horse starts walking immediately after the birth. Does that happen to human babies? No. The human off springs take a while before they start even crawling. This means that the human body is not ready for doing certain acts till the human body reaches certain development. The bones are not fully ossified and joints are not fully ready for the movements.
Thus here are few tips regarding baby massage:
1.If the baby is sick, unwell, low birth weight, premature one should not be give massage without doctor’s advice
2.There is no specific recommendation on particular oil for massage.
The oil should be applied lightly in direction of the muscles.
3.It takes few months for the baby to develop the mechanism of controlling body temperature. Till then baby’s can really get cold or hot while bathing. You must cover the baby well.

A complete NO to the baby exercises at any point of time. Even if you are an ambitious parent and want your child to be in gymnastics still is a big No!

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