Kathmandu, February 11
The traditional culture of giving an oil massage to newborn babies is gradually turning into a lucrative profession in recent years.
This increasing trend of hiring a masseuse for giving oil massage to babies has especially benefitted women from low income households. Such masseuses reportedly charge from Rs 15,000 to up to Rs 35,000 per month.
Rupa Ghimire from New Baneshwor, who has been working as a masseuse for the last 17 years, said, “Generally people hire masseuses for a month, while some also hire us for two or three months.”
For Rs 25,000 per month, Ghimire gives an oil massage to the mother once a day, while the baby is given the massage twice a day.
“When I started in this profession, I used to charge Rs 3,000 per month,” shared Ghimire, adding that the extra income is a boon for her family of four — two children and a husband who is a taxi driver.
According to her, sometimes she gets hired by up to four families at once. “Unfortunately this is a seasonal job, so other times I take up odd jobs like washing clothes, which fetches me Rs 800 to Rs 1,000 for the entire day’s labour,” she said.
Similarly, Dashani Chaudhary from Sarlahi, who currently lives in New Baneshwor, has been working as a masseuse for the last seven years. She charges between Rs 15,000 and Rs 25,000 per month for her service.
“If they want me to give the massage only to the baby, I charge Rs 15,000, and for giving massage to both the mother and baby, I charge Rs 25,000 per month,” she explained, adding her fees may go higher if they ask her to do other household chores.
While Ghimire said she is selftaught on giving oil massages, Chaudhary said it was a skill that was passed down to her from her mother and grandmother.
Both women claimed the demand for oil masseuses has been booming in recent times.
As per Som Prasad Khatiwada, a culture expert, the culture of giving oil massage to the mother and baby has become a profession recently along with the changing times.
“Earlier, the grandmother or the mother would give the oil massage to the baby,” he explained.
“But with proliferation of nuclear families and as everybody is pressed for time, hiring a masseuse is a more viable option nowadays.”
According to Khatiwada, giving a massage to the baby using mustard oil aids in healthy development of bones and muscles.
“Giving mustard oil massage while sunbathing works as an antibiotic for the babies,” he said.
“Likewise, the mustard oil also works as an insect repellent.”
While the trend of hiring professional masseuses and their service fee has been increasing simultaneously, medical professionals are not sold to the idea of giving oil massage to babies.
“Traditionally it was advised to give oil massage to babies to maintain their temperature,” said Dr RP Bichha, director of Kanti Children’s Hospital. “However, we don’t recommend it, as giving an oil massage to a baby out in the open, as is the general trend, can actually result in them suffering from hypothermia.”
According to him, parents should rather keep the babies warm by bundling them up properly and dressing them up in warm clothes.
A version of this article appears in print on February 12, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.