The world can be a stressful place, for both parents and their babies. As a new parent you are learning how to balance a life that is completely dependent on you. Although everything you do conveys your love for your baby, the benefits of stopping and really connecting with him through infant massage are astounding.
Studies have shown a broad range of benefits linked to infant massage. Whether psychological, physiological, or developmental it’s clear that spending relaxed one-on-one time can only bring positive results for both you and your baby.
One of the primary goals of most parents is how to get their baby to sleep more and cry less. A study done at the University of Warwick found that massage helped babies under six months sleep better, cry less, and be less stressed. Researchers found that levels of the stress hormone cortisol were lower in babies who were massaged.
Benefits of Infant Massage
As the stress hormone cortisol decreases, oxytocin, commonly referred to as the “love hormone” increases. A soothing touch relaxes your baby’s mind and body, helping him let go of any built-up stress from his day.
• Attachment and bonding
The benefits of skin-to-skin contact directly after birth have been well documented, but those benefits don’t need to stop after those first few hours. Babies continue to thrive with skin-to-skin contact as they grow and develop.
Infant massage gives you the opportunity to stop and really pay attention to your baby’s cues and learn from them. From eye-to-eye contact and loving touches he’s learning how to give and receive love. As you take this time to get to know him better, you will deepen the bond that is already growing from your constant day-to-day interactions.
• Healthy Development
Massage can stimulate all body systems from digestion and circulation to the brain and nervous and immune systems. It can help ease the discomfort that gas, constipation, teething, and congestion can bring.
Infant Massage Guidelines
• Massage needs to be a quiet, relaxed, undisturbed time that you dedicate to your baby.
• Building massage into your daily schedule will allow you both to look forward to an enjoyable experience away from the hustle and bustle of the day.
• Be flexible and watch for your baby’s signs on when to stop: a cry, stiffening of his limbs, or becoming irritable are all cues that he’s not enjoying the sensation. Sometimes it may be right after you start, other time it may be after 30 minutes depending on his mood.
• With that in mind, not all babies will love having a massage every day, or even at all. Some can find it over stimulating or uncomfortable. Check your technique before giving up completely. Your strokes should be firm and not ticklish. Research some different techniques to find the one that he will enjoy the most.
• Start when he is in a quiet and alert state; right after a feed or another time when he’s not sleepy.
There are numerous resources available to help you learn infant massage techniques. Books, websites, and videos can all teach you the basics of infant massage. Many communities have classes available to give you a more hands-on approach to learning. Set yourself up for success; take the time to research some proper techniques and tips on how to create a soothing environment for your baby. It’s more than just randomly stroking your baby, there are different options and techniques, just like with adult massage. Find the technique that works best with your baby.
For more information on infant massage, please visit the International Association of Infant Massage.