Traditional Malay Baby Massage (called Urut Bayi in Malaysia) has been practiced for centuries, and is a gentle full body head-to-toes oil massage that already starts in the first week after the baby is born.
The massage is usually given after the baby had its bath; the idea is that the pores of the baby’s skin are wider open after a bath and the skin can better absorb the nutritious massage oil. The massage is done while the baby is still unclothed. Typically, virgin Coconut oil is used to massage a baby.
In Malaysia, it’s customary to massage babies every day during three up to six months, about ten minutes per session. It’s thought that it makes a baby feel comfortable and calm, stimulates digestion and better sleep, and alleviates or even prevents colic and excessive crying.
An important characteristic of the Malaysian Baby Massage is the use of a warm herbal ball compress, in Malaysia called tunku (or tungku). The herbal compress is applied after the oil massage and contains a mixture of traditionally used herbs, such as lemongrass, turmeric, kaffir lime, camphor, mentol, ginger, and tamarind, up to sometimes twenty different types of herbs.
The tunku is warmed in a microwave or steamed in a special herbal compress steamer up to a comfortable temperature for the baby’s skin. The compress is then pressed on the entire body of the baby (except the head and face) starting with the abdominal area, followed by the legs, arms, and back of the baby.
After the herbal ball compress session, a belly wrap (called barut) made of light cotton is strung around the baby’s abdominal area with the idea to keep the region warm, let the baby feel comfortable (imitating the womb) support the baby’s abdominal muscles, improve digestion, and prevent colic.