In Nepal, traditional oil care for postpartum mothers and their babies is an important practice.
For newborns it’s very common to give a full-body mustard oil massage. One of the important goals of this massage is to keep the baby warm by stimulating the blood circulation. It’s also thought that the massage benefits the baby’s skin (against infections and for a better skin condition) and the gastrointestinal system (for instance, to ease flatulence).
Before the massage, mustard oil is warmed and poured in a steel bowl. Sometimes fried thyme seeds, garlic and sesame are added to the mustard oil. An alternative to mustard oil is using olive, sunflower, or almond oil.
Afterwards, the baby, lying on a cushion, hay or coconut fiber mat, is massaged, stroked and rubbed with the oil. Typically the mother will start with the baby’s belly.
Apart from quite some rigorous muscle kneading, a few basic stretching exercises are carried out, such as bringing the knees of the baby to the chest, gently pulling and crossing the arms, and such.
The idea of the stretching exercises is to strengthen the baby’s limbs and joints for when the baby is ready to stand and walk.
The use of mustard oil to massage is widespread in Nepal, not only for an Infant or Baby Massage. It’s used also for postpartum mothers and for anyone who has muscle pains and aches.
Mustard oil practices are also common in India in Ayurvedic treatments to massage, in diets, or as an oil in herbal packs and compresses, among other applications.