Baby massage is a great way to bond with your baby and has been practised for centuries in many countries. “Through a parent’s loving touch, babies receive many physical and emotional benefits.”* Whether you attend, ever so popular, baby massage classes and learn how to give a massage or simply follow your instincts, you’ll always need to use an oil. There is a lot of confusion about the types of oils, which ones are best for babies…
You can choose between vegetable oils, mineral oils or emulsions and lotions, especially if your baby has a extremely sensitive skin or eczema. Such emulsions or lotions will be usually prescribed by your baby’s paediatrician. Best to use are cold pressed, unrefined vegetable oils, which absorb quickly and carry many health benefits. Heat processes destroy the natural properties of oils. Mineral oils, advertised as “baby oils” are greasy and don’t absorb well, bringing no nutritional value to the skin. They may clog pores, which can lead to skin infections. “When you are in the middle of the massage and your baby puts his hand in or near his mouth, you don’t want to worry that nonfood substance is passing into his delicate digestive system.”**
Some vegetable oils are more and some less kind to your baby’s delicate skin. Oils rich in linoleic acid are better for sensitive skin and those rich in oliec acid can be successfully used for babies with normal skin, but are best avoided for babies with eczema.
It’s very important you choose an oil, which is best suited for your baby’s skin. It should be pure in its content and organic, if possible.
How to know which oil is rich in linoleic and which in oleic acid? The labels don’t mention this names… Oils rich in linoleic acid have higher content of polyunsaturated fatty acids and those rich in oleic acid have a higher content of monounsaturated fatty acids.
For baby massage it’s important to avoid using oils meant for adults and those with strong scents.
Cold pressed vegetable oils are available in health food shops and will be more expensive than those available in supermarkets, which may not be cold pressed. They won’t have strong scents, hence won’t distract the baby from parent’s natural smell.
Most popular oils:
– safflower oil – rich in linoliec acid, moisturising and soothing for inflamed skin
– grapeseed oil – rich in linoliec acid, light, non-greasy and easily absorbed to leave skin soft
– sunflower oil – rich in linoliec acid, soothing and protecting for damaged and dry skin
– olive oil – rich in oliec acid, promotes healthy skin growth. Not recommended for babies with very dry skin or eczema.
– sweet almond oil – rich in oliec acid, suitable for nourishing all skin types. Almond is a nut and may cause an allergic reaction! Not recommended if you have a family history of allergies.
Store your oils in a cool, dark place.
Before you start using the selected oil, make sure you “patch” test it on your baby’s skin, on top of baby’s arm. Check if there is any allergic reaction after an hour. If the skin is red (rush or red blotches), try another oil.
Enjoy the massage together with your baby!
*) Peter Walker, Developmental baby massage, London, Carroll & Brown Publishers Ltd, 2009
**) Vimala McClure, Infant Massage. A handbook for loving parents, London, Souvenir Press Ltd, 2001