This $150 Massage Bar Is Like A Theragun For Babies

For hundreds of years, parents around the world have been massaging their babies to soothe and bond with them. But in the US, the practice is not very common.

Elina Furman, founder of a new brand called Kahlmi, wants to change that. She has developed a $150 device that is basically a Theragun for the little ones, with low vibrations and a soft silicone wand that is adapted to a baby’s anatomy. It’s part of a wave of beautifully designed but expensive parenting tools — from the $1,5000 SNOO crib to the $140 Lovevery playmat — aimed at millennial parents.

[Photo: Kahlmi]Many cultures around the world practice baby massage, but it is most associated with India. A 2000 study found that more than 85% of Indian parents massage their newborn in the baby’s first week of life. They use gentle movements with minimal pressure and coconut or sesame oil. Parents in the study believed that massage supported the baby’s bone strength, while also encouraging better sleep and growth. There is some research to support this: A 2016 meta-analysis found that massaging babies with oil increased their weight, height and head circumference, but showed no improvements in their neurobehavioral scores.

Whitney Cesares, a pediatrician who has published two books with the American Academy of Pediatrics, says the benefits of baby massage are extensive and well-researched. She points out that the practice has become popular over the past decade, especially as parents are now encouraged to have extensive skin-to-skin contact with their babies, as well as attentive, undisturbed time spent interacting with them. The problem, however, is that there are no science-backed guidelines for actually performing massage, despite organizations such as Infant Massage USA and the International Association of Infant Massage trying to educate parents. “There are no guidelines on which strokes to use or even which baby oil to use,” she says.

Furman, who was trained as a baby massage educator, found that many American parents wanted to massage their babies but lacked the confidence. Furman likens baby massage to babywearing, a practice common in other countries for centuries, but only became popular in the US and Europe in the 1960s when brands like BABYBJÖRN developed baby carriers that showed parents how to do it.

Manasa Mantravadi, a pediatrician who advises Kahlmi, was born in India and came to the US when she was three. Her mother massaged her as a baby and she did the same for her twins. Mantravadi says the experience was soothing for her newborns as well as for her. But she says the practice can be daunting if people haven’t done it before. “If you don’t have an Indian immigrant mother who can teach you the basics, you may need a resource,” she says.

[Photo: Kahlmi]

[Photo: Kahlmi]Furman spent two years developing the Kahlmi, drawing sketches and then working with Salt Lake City design firm Klug Onyx to bring the product to life. The Kahlmi is very quiet so it won’t overstimulate the baby, especially at bedtime. It has three vibration levels, depending on the age of the baby, and can be used from birth through the teens and beyond. When I tested it on my five-month-old, I saw her eyes widen as she felt the gentle vibrations on her skin. At first she was too wobbly to give me a good massage, but when I gave her a toy to play with, I was able to massage her belly, which seemed to calm her down.

[Photo: Kahlmi]Furman wanted Kahlmi to be a multi-function device that could relieve flatulence or constipation, help babies sleep, or relax them in stressful situations, such as taking injections. “We designed the Kahlmi’s neck so thin that a baby can grab it when it’s old enough,” Furman says. “They can stick it to their mouths, which can be soothing if their gums are uncomfortable from teething.”

[Photo: Kahlmi]Cesares says it’s hard to say for sure whether the Kahlmi will help babies herself, because there’s no data on it yet. “From a pediatrician’s perspective, I would say that parents shouldn’t feel like they have to spend a lot of money to massage their child because it’s so easy to do it with your hands,” she says. “However, if there is no damage associated with the device, I can understand why a parent would want to buy it to increase their comfort level with a practice that feels strange.”

The Kahlmi is beautifully designed, but at $150, it’s out of the reach of many parents, especially since you don’t really need it to perform a massage. Furman justifies the price by stating that it can be used in many different contexts and for many years. And ultimately, she says, the device is meant to make baby massage easier and more enjoyable, but it’s not crucial. “Ultimately, people shouldn’t feel like they need expensive tools to be good parents,” Cesares says.

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