What oils are commonly used for massages after delivery?
Massages after your delivery are a great way to soothe your tired body. They help to relieve sore spots, improve blood circulation and melt away stress. There are a variety of oils available today and all offer different experiences.
- Mustard oil (sarson ka tel): This is often a first choice for a post pregnancy massage because it is believed to be warming. Heat is believed to help the healing process. Some also believe that mustard oil is particularly good for joint pains and blood circulation, although there is not much evidence to support this. Sometimes ajwain or garlic is added to the mustard oil and the oil is slightly heated to give a warming effect. Mustard oil is easily available and cheap, but you might not like the smell. It is also very difficult to wash the oil off your clothes because it is so thick. It is best to set aside a massage sheet and clothes to use for your massages. You can then throw them away when you no longer need them.
- Coconut oil (nariyal ka tel): Coconut oil is a popular choice for massages, especially in South India. It is usually used for head massages, but is also used for body massage. It is thought to have a cooling, hydrating effect on the body. Those who believe that heat is needed to recover from giving birth will not recommend this oil for after your delivery, but you might find it soothing in summer. Coconut oil smells pleasant and is quickly absorbed by the skin. It is easily available and is among the cheaper massage oils.
- Sesame oil (til ka tel): Sesame oil is used for massages in many regions of India, especially in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. In ayurveda, sesame oil is believed to control stress and blood pressure. This oil is believed to have cooling properties, so it might not be recommended by some for a post-delivery massage. You might find it soothing in the summer though, and might prefer the smell to that of mustard. But, sesame oil is usually more expensive than mustard oil.
- Sweet almond oil (badam ka tel): Sweet almond oil is becoming increasingly popular. It is easily absorbed by the skin making it a good moisturiser. This sweet-smelling oil is also believed to relieve muscle pain, reduce inflammation and itching, improve the complexion as well as lighten stretch marks. Again, not enough research has been done to confirm these beliefs but this does not mean that using it won't be a pleasant experience. Almond oil is, however, more expensive than mustard or sesame oil.
- Olive oil (jaitoon ka tel): In recent years, olive oil is increasingly being used in many regions, especially in urban areas. It is thought to be a good skin and hair conditioner and a way to relieve stiffness. It also smells pleasant. Olive oil is considered to be heating. It is the most expensive of the oils because it is imported.
- Other oils: Some oils, such as grape seed, sunflower and wheat germ, are gaining positive interest due to their medical benefits. Grape seed and sunflower oil are very light and non-greasy and promote healthy skin. Lavender and sandalwood oils have also been shown by some studies to be good calming agents that boost your mood. Some mothers like these oils particularly in the hot weather because they are non-greasy.
Wheatgerm is a very thick, rich oil and is best mixed with other oils. It can go rancid quickly, so be careful. Speak to your doctor before using any of these oils. They may not be easily available and are usually more expensive.
Which oils should I choose for my massages?
Any of the oils mentioned above are great for massages. But different people will favour different oils. You need to find an oil that suits both you and your baby. Try out several different oils. Try just a small amount of oil on your skin at first. Look out for signs of an allergic reaction such as an itchy rash. If the oil agrees with you, you then need to test your baby's reaction. Apply and wash off the oil as you would normally. If your baby fusses when you hold him this is a sign that he dislikes the smell. Stop using this oil and try another instead.
What precautions do I need to take while having an oil massage after delivery?
Although having a soothing massage with oils has its benefits, there are still some precautions you should take before having one. This will keep you and your new baby safe and healthy.
- Always dilute a herbal or essential oil before using it. Undiluted oils will be too strong and can cause irritation.
- Avoid using oils on your breasts and nipples. It is best to not oil areas your baby will come into contact with. This will help prevent an allergic reaction and will also ensure that your baby continues to breastfeed happily.
- Test the oil first. Try the oil on a small patch of skin before you use it. If it causes a rash or itchiness, don't use the oil. You may be allergic to it.
- Check the contents of ayurvedic oils. Some ayurvedic oils contain peppercorns, cinnamon and nutmeg to 'warm up' the body. Pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg can easily irritate the skin and cause discomfort. It is best to avoid oils that contain these ingredients.
- Make sure your oil doesn't come into contact with your baby, especially if it is herbal. Unless you use the same oil as your baby, it is best to keep your oil away from him. Some herbal and essential oils are harmful to your baby. Find out more about what oils are safe for your baby.
- Be careful about oils made by maalishwalis. Some maalishwalis make their own oils and insist on using them. Only accept if you know the ingredients she has used to make the oil. Some ingredients might be harmful.
I don't want to use oils. Can I use lotions instead?
So long as the lotion is not applied to the breast or nipple, using a body lotion instead of oil is fine. But, there are some ingredients in lotions which can be harmful. Using lotions that do not contain these ingredients will be safer for you and your baby. Here is a list of some ingredients to look out for:
- Petroleum. Many baby lotions contain petroleum based ingredients, but they can sometimes irritate baby skin. Petroleum based ingredients are usually labelled as propylene glycol, mineral oil, paraffin, petrolatum or isopropyl alcohol.
- Formaldehyde. This is sometimes listed as hydrowymethylglycinate, DMDM-hydantoin or methenesmine. It is often used as a preservative in lotions. It can cause allergies in a breastfeeding baby.
- Parabens. Parabens can sometimes build up in your body and affect your breastfeeding baby. Look out for 'paraben' at the end of a name. For example, 'methylparaben'.
- Retinoids. This ingredient is often used to combat wrinkles and tighten skin. It is best left alone by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
As with oils, it is best to test different lotions first. Check your baby's reaction and look out for signs of a rash. You will soon be able to enjoy a soothing massage to help your body recover after birth.