Although a Baby Massage (or Infant Massage) can certainly be given without oils, it’s nevertheless rather common to use them. Oils can have a variety of health benefits for the baby if used with certain precautions, and if certain contraindications are taken into account.
But before we continue, first a note on the difference between base oils (also called carrier oils) and essential oils. For instance, pure Almond oil, Argan oil, or Coconut oil are base oils, and can serve to dilute essential oils. Essential oils, also called volatile oils or ethereal oils, are concentrated liquids that contain distilled volatile chemical parts from plants. These volatile oils can also be extracted directly from plant parts. Essential oils got their name because they contain the “essence” of the plant’s scent or aroma.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using oils in Baby Massage. For instance, the use of particular massage oils, such as Medium Chain Triglycerides oils (MCTs), Coconut oil, Safflower oil, and Sunflower oil can support rapid weight gain. In fact, the oil with its nutrients is taken up through the skin (so-called transcutaneous intake).
Some oils are considered good for skin, nail and hair development, and others for warming or relaxing the baby. Again other oils are applied for the aromatic i.e. therapeutic properties, which inhaled are considered beneficial for babies on a physical, emotional, and/or mental level. The inhalation of aromas is commonly called Aromatherapy.
Typically, massage oils are applied warm, sometimes being medicated with specific herbs, or mixed with essential oils to increase their health benefits.
It’s interesting to note that massage is not always a goal in itself, but a tool to help oils penetrate through the skin into the deeper located bodily tissues. That is, by firmly rubbing in oil, the herbal properties can work more effectively in providing their benefits.
In any case, it’s always advisable to consult a professional midwife, birth doula, doctor, or other appropriate healthcare provider if oils may be used for the baby, and if specific oils should be avoided.
Some guidelines for using baby massage oils are:
- Oils should be preferably hundred percent chemical free i.e. organic;
- Oils should not be perfumed and not contain synthetic ingredients;
- Oils should be suitable for sensitive, delicate skin;
- In general, oils should be plant-herbal based i.e. not derived from minerals, animals, or petroleum;
- Oils should be edible; as such it’s not harmful when the baby licks or swallows it;
- Carrier oils should preferably not be mixed;
- Don’t change the types of oils used too often;
- Be careful with essential oils, which can be very strong or irritable;
- Test for allergic reactions to the oil; rub a bit of oil on a spot on the baby’s skin that cannot be easily scratched (somewhere on the back of the baby, for instance).