Massaging a newborn baby is followed as a ritual in India. Many families hire masseuses or "malishwalis" or "jhapa maids" who are professionals in carrying out massaging of the baby and the new mom. In our society too, massage is given to the newborn and the new mom on a daily basis for at least 40 days after birth. A maalishwali is often entrusted with this responsibility but not without a host of concerns, criticism and judgment from everyone around. Post my delivery, this was something that worried me a lot: could I trust my baby with the maalishwali?
I had heard and read about some horrific incidents with malishwalis.
They were not handling the baby properly.
They were applying too much pressure during massage which led to fracturing of bones!
They were pinching baby's breast - God knows for what reason!
They shook the baby upside down.
Some of them even held the baby from the head by supporting their neck.
There was no end to the horror stories I had been fed about maalishwalis! So now the real task began. I was damn nervous about getting a good malishwali and was even preparing to do this on my own instead. As it turned out, finding a malishwali is not that simple. I got to know that there are two types of malishwalis - the one who comes every day and the one who stays with you and helps you with other baby chores for 40 days. So I started searching online, I asked in my locality, I asked friends. I wished someone would recommend me a masseuse with great experience and positive feedback. Hiring someone your family or relatives recommend has been the traditional way followed since ages. But nowadays we have options available for hiring online or hiring via an agency. Getting an agency to help is really convenient as they handle all the paperwork and the hiring procedure is smoothly managed. What's more, the agency takes sole responsibility for the masseuse's experience, behavior, hygiene, etc.
Eventually, I was lucky that I managed to find a malishwali in her 40's with good experience and five positive recommendations with her. She came every day for the massage. I had a detailed discussion with her and it was together that we came to the conclusion on what was to be done and what not.
So here are a few vital points I am sharing with you based on my experience with my maalishwali. I followed these pointers religiously for 40 days and both my baby and I benefited a lot from this!
1. Stop listening to others where your baby is concerned. Use your own brain and follow your heart as no one knows and cares for your baby more than you.
When I became a mom, no one hesitated from giving free
advice based on their experiences. Seniors from the family, relatives, friends, maids, friend's friends, sisters, aunties, uncles...But I kept my head calm and focused on my baby. I kept track of what my baby enjoyed while massaging and made sure that the maalishwali followed my observations.
Hand washing was essential before the massage began every day. I made sure my maalishwali had clean hands and observed personal hygiene.
I used to take my massage first and then my baby would go for his massage. This way I could keep a track on what was happening. One thing I made sure of every time was that my maalishwali washed her hands and used a sanitizer before starting the work. There was no compromise with hygiene at all.
3. I did not let my maalishwali use whatever oil she fancied for the massage. This decision was mine alone and I made sure we used only baby-safe oils.
My maalishwali once suggested that she can make a good massage oil at her place. She told me that this oil is very good and that she has been using it since ages for her children and whereever she goes to work. Well, I did not agree with this I asked her to use lukewarm coconut oil only for the massage of both of us. I did not want to take any risks with my baby's skin and trusted only safe, doctor-approved oils.
4. My maalishwali handled my baby very carefully and gently. Don't believe all the horror stories people tell you about rough and brutal maalishwalis!
With the many horrific stories I had heard about rough handling of babies by malishwalis, I
was damn scared at first. So I discussed this issue with my malishwali and told
her to handle my baby cautiously. She did a wonderful job! I can say
I was lucky enough to find her and that those stories don't apply in every case!
5. I ensured that my malishwalis was gentle with my baby. We had clear guidelines on how much pressure she should apply while massaging.
Applying too much pressure while
massaging baby or massaging them roughly may lead to major accidents. Babies are very gentle and unable to handle this. I
clearly indicated to my malishwali that she must have soft hands while massaging my
baby. And she did exactly as I asked.
6. My baby benefited from the professionally trained malishwali who had a lot of experience in this field. My baby never cried during the massage and bath that his malishwali gave him.
My elder child was born in
South India and I was not able to find a good malishwali for her that
time. So the next time I became a mom, I started searching well in advance. My baby was 12
days old when we started his massage routine. Very professionally, my malishwali would put a mat on my bed. She
knew how to connect with the baby and keep him happy while massaging by
talking to the baby in a low voice, tickling him, and applying gentle pressure on the pressure
points which keep baby happy during the entire process.
7. My malishwali helped me get trained in giving babies a massage in the best way possible. She also helped me feel better about my own body, health, and new mom responsibilities.
Even though I knew how to massage my baby as I
already done so for 2 years with my elder one, I still loved to learn from my malishwali. She used to train me for 10 minutes every day.
Honestly, this helped me so much I never felt depressed. Someone to talk to, someone who understands your problem and who tells you positive things
about your body and your baby - new moms really need this!
8. It was my malishwali who taught me how to give the massage that can keep colic and gas away from babies.
one is 6 years old now. She was a colicky baby and the gas problem troubled her a lot
for almost 2 years. But with the clockwise and anti-clockwise
rotation massage on my younger one's belly, thankfully, he has never had colic!
9. Getting support from a malishwali can also help to overcome postnatal depression
Postnatal depression is not uncommon. In fact, it is becoming more and more common in new mums post delivery. The physical and emotional
changes and the hormone rush can make the body complete mess to deal with. So if you
have someone to talk to all the time and someone to support you with baby care, it helps a lot to cope with depression. My malishwali used to make
haldi milk for me post massage and then we would talk and share our
experiences with babies with each other. This entire massage session was
a good, fun experience for me, and it helped me stay positive and strong.
10. Malishwalis also tend to have good experience and ideas for physical activity as babies grow up
My malishwali would share many quick recipes for my baby and my elder one. I used them to feed my baby once he was 6 months of age. She guided me on how to massage the baby when he started crawling and then walking.
I am not denying the fact that mom and baby connect to each other if mom massages the baby. However, the postnatal recovery period is also important for the mother. This can be a make or break time for her depending on whether she is able to recover and get her strength back during this period. In my case, I would say I was lucky to find a very good malishwali. My baby enjoyed the massage sessions a lot and I too felt relaxed. There was someone to lend me a hand in my baby care - what else could I ask for?
So, new moms, if you get a good malishwali with clear background
checks, good experience, and a strong recommendation - just hire her. Don't think about what anyone would say or feel. Both you and your baby deserve care and relaxation, and as long as you keep necessary precautions in mind, there is NOTHING wrong about hiring a malishwali!
In the end, I'd definitely like to thank Sunita, my baby's malishwali. She has played a big part in helping my baby and me take baby steps into our new journey.