A postnatal massage is a full body massage that helps to ease sore spots and relax muscle tension. Check out our photo gallery to learn what to expect from your post-delivery massage.
Reviewed by Sonali Shivlani, our breastfeeding, pregnancy fitness and wellbeing expert.
Preparing for the massage
The postnatal massage is a full body massage that is given to a mum every day for upto 40 days after birth. Some mothers prefer to have the daily massage for more days. There are many maalishwalis or japa maids that specialise in postnatal and newborn massages.
The postnatal massage can last for upto an hour, and finishes with a bath. The maalishwali starts the oil massage from your feet and works her way up the body through your abdomen and back to finish off with a head massage.
Ensure your baby is fed and being looked after by a trusted person, so you can relax and enjoy the massage.
While you will need to get undressed for the massage, keep your bra on with some breastpads in. The massage will help your body to release oxytocin which triggers your let down reflex. So you might find that you leak milk during or just after the massage. You can undo the strap of your bra for the back massage and lower the shoulder straps when your shoulders are being massaged.
Choose what oil you want the maalishwali to use for your massage. Some of the commonly used oils are mustard oil (sarson ka tel), coconut oil (nariyal ka tel) and sweet almond oil (badaam ka tel). If using the same oil for your baby’s massages too, make sure the oil is suitable for your baby’s gentle skin.
Close the curtains, put on some dim lights and relaxing music and de-stress!
Your maalishwali will start the massage from your feet. She will apply pressure on your soles to relieve sore spots and help you relax.
Let the maalishwali know if the pressure is uncomfortable so that she can use gentler strokes.
It’s best to take off any toe rings and anklets you might be wearing, so that the massage can be done smoothly.
Massage each toe
The maalishwali will massage each toe and pull on it. She will then massage the base of each toe and finish off by sliding all five fingers between each of your toes and gently pulling.
The maalishwali will then massage your calf muscles with strokes that move from ankle to knee. This will help relieve sore leg muscles and improve blood circulation.
It’s important that the strokes go upwards towards your body rather than downwards because this direction supports the veins that work against gravity to carry blood from your feet up to your heart. It is especially important to use this direction if you have varicose veins. Varicose veins can sometimes be painful so ask the masseuse to use gentle strokes if the pressure is uncomfortable for you.
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Knee and thigh muscles
The maalishwali will use a circular motion to massage your knees. She might then ask you to bend your knee and will massage your thigh with firm strokes from your knee to your hip. The long strokes will help relieve tension in your thigh and hip muscles after delivery.
Gentle strokes for stomach
The maalishwali will then move to your tummy. If you find the pressure on your tummy uncomfortable, ask your maalishwali to stop and use gentler strokes. A massage should leave you feeling relaxed and relieve stress in your body, not make you feel uncomfortable and in pain.
The maalishwali will use the palms of her hands for strokes from the ribs to the pubic bone. This is the direction in which your uterus (womb) is shrinking so these strokes will support the uterus on it’s way down.
Note: If you are recovering from a caesarean, wait till your scar is healed before you start getting full body massages. You can have a head, upper back, shoulder, feet and arm massage to begin with. Once your scar is healed, let your doctor confirm you are ready for abdomen massages before you start. Pressure on the area soon after a caesarean surgery may cause problems.
Clockwise strokes to aid digestion
The maalishwali will then use the palms of both her hands to do clockwise strokes on your tummy. The clockwise motion is to help move things along the digestive tract.
The maalishwali will then ask you to lie on your stomach so she can massage your back. Some women prefer to start the postnatal massage with a back massage and then move from the feet upwards. Either way is fine.
The muscles in your lower back can get very strained during childbirth. Regular massage can help to ease sore spots and relax muscle tension.
If you have had a caesarean and lying on your tummy is painful, you can get a back massage done sitting up.
Your breasts might also feel too full to lie on them comfortably, especially if they are engorged. You can either place a soft cushion under your chest or enjoy the massage from a sitting position.
Soothe sore back muscles
In the early days of breastfeeding, your back muscles can get quite sore. Try to find a suitable position for breastfeeding. Make sure you sit comfortably with good back support and bring your baby to your breast rather than bend forward towards your baby.
A post-delivery massage can really help soothe any sore spots on your back. The maalishwali will use firm circular motions to ease away the tension in those areas. Take deep breaths during the massage as it will help you to relax more.
Shoulder and neck muscles
The maalishwali will then ask you to sit up and will massage your shoulders and neck. Your shoulder muscles can get quite sore from constantly holding your baby or from using a wrong position for breastfeeding. The tension from the shoulders can build up into your neck and cause a headache too.
The maalishwali will use kneading actions on your shoulder muscles to relax the tension and use her thumbs to apply pressure as she massages your neck.
It is best to take off any jewellery you might be wearing around your neck before the massage.
Massage the arms
The maalishwali will then massage your arms using gentle strokes that go from your shoulder to your hands.
Finish by massaging the fingers
She will then massage your palm, fingers, and in between the fingers. Make sure you take off any rings or bangles, so that there aren’t any obstructions while massaging.
The postnatal massage is finished off with a head massage. The maalishwali will use her finger pads to rub your head in circular movements.
You might not want to use oil every day for your head massage. Just let the maalishwali know your preference.
Now it’s time to have a nice, relaxing bath and lie down for a nap if your baby lets you!
Massaging your breasts
A post-delivery breast massage will help open blocked ducts, loosen lumps or hardened areas, and reduce the risk of mastitis.
However very gentle strokes should be used for massaging the breasts, as vigorous massage can damage the ducts that lead the milk out of your breasts. It is best if you do the breast massage yourself as you are the best judge of how much pressure to apply.
As your breast nodes start in the armpit, you should start the massage with gentle circular motions in your armpit. Continue with gentle strokes all over the body of your breast and finish with strokes towards the nipple. A good place for this massage is in the bath as you might leak milk as you do it.