Is the Omugwo Massage Good for your Baby?

You probably have no idea what Omugwo is if you are not Igbo. Omugwo is the time set aside by older women to share talcum powder among their friends and sing cultural songs with high voices while energetically stamping their feet. 


Omugwo is filled with "joy", baby cries and is oddly when the newborn's mother gets time to rest.


In the short period after a baby is born, it is customary for the baby's grandmothers to come over to help. Everyone wants to help, but the baby's grandmother is usually first in line. They help make food and tend to the sore mother.


They bathe the baby and, with deft hands, massage the body of the little one. Although they always mean well, some massage practices can be lethal.


This article will discuss whether these massages are beneficial or should be canceled completely. 



Benefits of a massage 


You may already know that massages have a lot of benefits;


  • 1. Relieving stress


  • 2. Managing back pain 


  • 3. Reducing muscle stiffness


  • 4. Improving sleep


There are several benefits too for babies when done right. According to the British Midwifery journal, infant massages benefit both mother and baby. Massages can:


  • 1. Help improve your baby's mental development and environmental awareness.


  • 2. Aid your baby’s weight gain.


  • 3. Improve sleep quality 


  • 4. Aid the development of babies' movement skills. 


  • 5. Reduce crying and fussiness 


Massages can help you bond better with your baby. The 2005 Pediatric Nursing Journal reported that parents or caregivers who massaged their babies felt emotionally closer to them. 





Correct ways to massage infants 

Massages can only give you positive results when done correctly. A typical Omugwo massage is risky because of the way it is done. 


  • Folding a baby's hands backward or holding the baby up by the shoulder could cause partial dislocation or injury.  Research indicates that excessive widening of the angle between the head and shoulder of a baby can injure the upper arm. And backward rotation could damage the lower arm.


  • Besides the risks of dropping the baby as you have your baby slathered with massage oil or lotion, holding your baby by the ankle upside down, as is usually done with Omugwo massages, can cause brain injuries. Experts advise avoiding any activity leaving an infant's neck or head unsupported. 
  • Shaking a baby can Lead to abusive head trauma (AHT) and can cause severe brain damage or death. This action does not include bouncing a baby on one knee.
  • MFM Dr. Philippa Kaye advises against throwing a baby up even at around six months when the neck is vital, as there are dangers of brain injury. 



Recommended infant massage 

Experts recommend waiting at least ten days to two weeks before you start any form of massage beyond gently touching your baby. 


This way of massage will give the skin barrier enough time to develop enough to handle a massage oil without risks to the skin and body enough time to shed their umbilical cord stub.





Recommended types of massages

The following are types of massages you can do for your baby.


  • 1. Leg massage 

Lay your baby’s back on a soft flat surface, cradle each thigh with your hands, and rub outwards and back along the leg as you straighten them out gently. 


Repeat as many times as comfortable for you and your baby.



  • 2. Belly massage

Assume your baby's belly is a clock, visually divide it into four sides, and gently and slowly massage the first section in a circular motion. 


Do this for fifteen seconds in each quadrant. Go around the quadrants three times and bring your baby’s knees up. This massage can help relieve the discomfort of baby colic caused by overfeeding, underfeeding and infrequent burping.



  • 3. Arm massage 

Hold your baby's hand up gently, and start on the shoulders with the thumb of your second hand. 


Use your thumb in a circular motion and gently press on the biceps and triceps still in a circular motion. 


Massage from the shoulders down to the little fingers with moderate pressure. Massage the center of the palm in a circular motion, then use your thumb and index finger to pull on each finger gently. Repeat on the second arm.



  • 4. Neck massage

Lay your baby on their back and let them relax.


Turn their head to the restricted side and gently hold with one hand. Stabilize their shoulder with your other hand so they do not lift it off the floor as you turn their head for brief intervals; repeat on both sides. It can be difficult to suddenly stop old practices, especially the ones rooted in culture, such as the Omugwo massage.


But for your baby's well-being, it is best to follow the advice of experts. When you finally start massaging your baby the recommended way, always consult your baby's pediatrician before you try a massage method.


So momma, having an omugwo is good but make sure to be gentle while massaging the baby. Have any omugwo experience? Share with us in the comments.

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