Baby Massage is an important, dynamic interaction between parent and infant that forms the foundation of relationship building that will last a lifetime. Nurturing touch between a parent and infant enriches physiological, social-emotional, and mind/body/spirit connections for the infant being massaged, as well as for the parent. Being touched and caressed, being massaged, is a wonderful sensory experience for baby.
Many cultures have used massage as part of baby care for centuries, and research shows it can have many benefits. Not only does massage enable you to learn about and respond to your baby’s body language. But it is also a wonderful way to make your baby feel safe and secure by showing that he or she is loved and cared for.
There are no hard and fast rules for baby massage, other than to ensure you are doing it safely. Your baby and you will discover together what works best for you both. Please bear in mind that massage is something you do with your infant, not to your infant. It is strongly suggested you seek guidance and education on massage techniques from a qualified baby massage therapist, midwife, or other healthcare professional to ensure you are doing it safely. A ten minute massage, two or three times a week assists in strengthening the parent-infant relationship, babies love it and it can assist in alleviating baby ailments too.
In today’s society, parents have heavy workloads and both their jobs and at home which can directly affect quality time spent with children. Infant massage, an age old tradition, is simple, free, can be administered almost anywhere and has a host of emotional and physical benefits for both parents and baby. A child with a strong sense of attachment is more likely to grow up confident, assured and happy. The parent-infant attachment is rooted in the very early months of life, so by its very definition infant massage has a deep effect on the emotional well-being of the infant and can be used to attain a sense of security for the growing child. The emotional benefits of infant massage, such as quality, one-to-one loving touch, can also be experienced by fathers.
Why Massage Your Baby?
- To help him breathe more rhythmically: Infants often have irregular breathing patterns, but because the skin is the largest organ of the human body and it’s rich in nerve endings, massage can help.
- To stimulate growth-promoting hormones: Pediatricians have long known that babies who are touched a lot thrive. Thriving doesn’t just mean growing bigger, it means growing to your fullest potential — physically, intellectually and emotionally. A study by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine found that premature babies receiving three 15-minute massages per day for five days showed a 53 percent greater daily weight gain than unmassaged babies.
- To build his brain: Studies show that newborns receiving extra touch experience enhanced neurological development. Since the brain grows fastest in the first year, that’s the time when it’s smart to give your child extra touch.
- To boost his immunity: A study of human infants 10 weeks old showed that infants whose backs were massaged by their mothers experienced fewer colds and fewer occurrences of diarrhea. Conversely, touch deprivation negatively affects the immune system. Touch enhances secretion of digestive hormones and helps the baby’s digestive system work more efficiently.
- To relieve stress: Researchers believe that one cause of colic is sensory overload. A stressed baby will cry. Infant massage can significantly reduce this stress by reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
When Should You Massage Your Baby?
Massaging your baby too soon after a feeding might cause your baby to vomit — so wait at least 45 minutes after a feeding. Also pay close attention to your baby’s mood. If your baby has a steady gaze and appears calm and content, he or she might enjoy a massage. If your baby turns his or her head away from you or becomes stiff in your arms, it might not be the best time for a massage.
When you start massaging your baby, what time of day you do massages and how often you massage your baby is up to you. You might give your newborn a daily massage. Your toddler might enjoy a massage at night as a soothing part of his or her bedtime routine.