Infant massage offers many benefits to babies and their caregivers. For many parents, touch is a natural part of caring for their children but some may not feel like they know how to give infant massage. While you can certainly take a class on infant massage, watch a youtube video or a read book about baby massage, you don’t have to be an expert to offer this wonderful healing touch to your child. If you follow your instincts and have a little fun, you can massage your baby without any additional knowledge. (Next week, we will post a “how to” for those wanting some more information on giving infant massage) Here are five great reasons to massage your baby
Infant massage facilitates bonding and healthy attachment
Infant massage promotes and develops positive interactions between caregivers and babies, helping them to better learn each others’ feelings and needs and understand one another’s communication. Massage and regular touch can help infants to feel more secure and attached to their caregivers. Massage facilitates the release of “love” hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin in both caregiver and baby, helping each to feel connected to one another in a strong, positive and healthy way. Infant massage is a great way for fathers to build their nurturing skills.
Infant massage can help with colic and digestive complaints
Massage can help tone the digestive tract and stimulate the release of insulin and related chemicals, which help with food absorption. According to research, infant massage can increase the assimilation of nutrients at the cell level, helping babies’ digestive systems function better, including easier elimination and less gas.
Infant massage calms babies, helping them to cry less and sleep better
Massage stimulates the body’s production and release of natural painkillers that may ease emotional distress. Touch balances our autonomic nervous systems. Massage can help to relieve tension in a baby’s body caused by all the sensory stimulation and processing he/she experiences in daily life.
Infant massage can increase baby’s brain and muscular development
Research shows that frequent healthy touch increases a baby’s neurological and muscular development. Infant massage can also have a profound effect on a child’s emotional development.
As one professor and researcher of developmental psychology put it,
“Early understanding of self and early understanding of other is developed through interaction. It teaches babies basic lessons that they have some agency in the world, so that allows them to explore the world and feel like they can affect their environment as opposed to just being helpless to whatever happens to them. We're basically a social species, and we learn those things through interacting with others.”
Infant massage reduces levels of stress in the caregiver
Mothers and fathers (and other caregivers) who offer infant massage to their children and other forms of nurturing touch on a regular basis report lower levels of depression. They also seem to be more sensitive to their babies cues, are thus better able to meet their child’s needs, and experience greater overall satisfaction in their relationship with baby. Infant massage boosts positive caregiving and maternal feelings in adults.
Stay tuned for next week’s details on offering infant massage.