Babies like massage. It helps them sleep better and to relax. Many traditional cultures have used massage as part of baby care, and research indicates that it can have many benefits. Infant massage allows you to understand and respond to your baby’s body language. It is also a fantastic way to let your baby feel safe and secure.
Infant massage should be a wonderful experience for both the parent and the child, and whilst it does not necessarily come naturally to parents, it is need not be difficult and it can be learned from others practicing or from specially designed infant massage classes.
The Benefits of Baby Massage
1. Provides relief from discomfort
Oxytocin and endorphins can be released through massage and these assist in relieving discomfort from teething, congestion and colic. For example a very gentle daily abdomen massage (a specific sequence provided by a trained practitioner) can assist in moving and releasing small amounts of gas trapped in the colon. If the small amounts of gas are consistently being eliminated then it may be possible to prevent the build up of gas and reduce impact of baby colic.
2. Speeds development of the brain and nervous system
Skin stimulation can speed the process of myelination of the brain and nervous system which improves the body-brain communication.
3. Relaxation and enhancement of neurological development
During a baby massage the child can experience both stress and relaxation stimulae. Increased circulation, cool air on the skin, the stimulation of stroking, may be stressful to a newborn, yet if these are balanced with the reassuring the parental voice and touch, then the baby will undergo a learning experience.
Some babies sleep for longer periods following infant massage and also appear to have longer periods of deep sleep. However it should be noted that a course of action that is effective with one baby does not necessarily apply to the next. There are cases where the problematic sleep pattern of babies is not improved by infant massage.
Other benefits include:
- Enhances the bonding process
- Helps muscle tone and assists growth
- Strengthens the immune system
- Increases Circulation
- Improves sensory awareness
Baby massage provides quality time between parent and baby and enables parents to feel more confident in their role and provides parents with a great tool for aiding their child to relax during stressful times.
Tips for a Great Baby Massage
To begin with then choose a time in which you and your child are relaxed and calm eg 30 minutes after the baby has eaten may be a great time. Do not massage infants under 5 months of age in conjunction with bath time. This is over-stimulating. For young infants, massage and bath time need to be separated by a nap or night- time sleep as they are both quite stimulating.
- Place the baby on a soft surface and your baby will feel comfortable and secure.
- The room needs to be warm enough for your baby to be comfortable without any clothing.
- Don’t not apply cold cream or lotion directly onto your baby but warm it first by putting the cream onto your hands and rubbing them together.
- Always begin with massaging the legs. This is an unobtrusive way to begin a massage as the legs are touched constantly while changing nappies. To place your hands directly on the infant’s chest or abdomen to begin massaging can be intrusive, and unacceptable to many infants.
- Use long firm (but tender) strokes. Light, feathery massage tend to irritate babies infants, as it does most adults.
- During the massage then feel free to look at your baby tenderly. This will stimulate all the senses of the baby and establish a more intense visual and tactile communication. Speaking to your baby during the massage will also add to the experience.
- If the baby wants to change position let them do so. Do not force your baby to keep a position, you can go back to these areas later on. Never watch the clock while massaging your baby. Simply go by what your child is indicating they want. If your baby wants more massage, and you are willing to continue then keep going. If you can see that your child has had enough – stop, regardless of how much massage you managed to get through.
- Never massage your baby while they are is crying. (The only exception for this may be with colic, and painful gas). Any arm movements going in and out from the chest indicate that you should stop the massage.
Remember that your touches should be tender and consider being flexible and not keeping to a rigid routine.