Expecting a baby is an exciting time, but it can be stressful too as there are so many details to consider, learn and adjust to in the process of becoming a parent. The moment of holding one’s baby for the first time is usually a very special one and leaves most parents with a sense of wonder at the miracle of new life.
Some parents like to prepare for how best to assist their new baby even before the birth. Others prefer to wait and to learn new skills as and when the need arises. For most parents, the question of how best to assist one’s baby through the developmental process of babyhood most effectively is uppermost in their minds. When budget is a concern and time constraints can be too, the most natural technique to use that can be of maximum benefit to both you as a parent and to your baby is infant or baby massage.
Whether you have a fussy baby, a colicky baby, a special needs baby or a healthy baby, spending a few minutes or longer massaging your baby regularly can be of benefit to both parents and the baby. The benefits are effective in the moment and have long lasting results too.
Everyone loves a massage, of course we do, so how does massaging one’s baby help, beyond the obvious enjoyment?
The skin is the largest organ of the body and has the potential to have the greatest influence on all areas of your baby’s development of health and well-being. Traditionally, massaging one’s baby was a skill passed down from mother to daughter. However, scientists have carried out research that demonstrates just how beneficial massaging one’s baby can be.
The benefits are typically broken down into two main categories and then further sub-categories. The first two categories are the benefits to the parent or caregiver and the benefits to the baby. Regarding the benefits for the baby, these are categorised in terms of stimulation, relaxation, relief, bonding and attachment and each of these has an effect on the growth and healthy development of baby’s body, mind and spirit.
If we look at each of these areas more closely, infant massage provides benefit for your baby in the following ways:
By stimulating healthy development of all major systems i.e. neuron-development, blood circulation, respiration, stimulating the immune system.
Since massage is carried out directly on the skin, it helps to improve the condition of the skin.
By facilitating the baby’s awareness of his / her body.
By improving digestion including elimination of waste and gas. As such it is a natural way to alleviate colic.
Infant massage provides relief and relaxation to the baby which in turn helps to reduce the stress hormone known as cortisol.
Infant massage helps a baby to develop a healthy sleep routine, ensuring a deeper sleep with baby waking in a happy mood.
Relief provided by infant massage helps in turn to reduce the pains of teething and growth pains, thus contributing to a happier baby
When infant massage is carried out together with singing to the baby or playing relaxing music, and finished off with a few gentle exercises, the experience helps baby to develop listening skills, co-ordination, balance, mid-line orientation and the beginnings of language.
Due to the release of the hormone oxytocin during massage, combined with the nurturing touch, massaging one’s baby has a major role to play in developing a healthy bond between baby and parents and developing love for one’s baby.
Benefits for the parents include:
Massaging one’s baby is a powerful way to get to know one’s baby and to begin to notice what helps him or her to relax and which kinds of stimulation are aggravating or uncomfortable for the baby. This forms the foundation of understanding, communication and trust between parent and child.
By learning a skill that is proven to help your baby, parents gain in confidence.
The relaxation felt during massaging one’s baby that is felt by the baby, is felt by the parent giving the massage too. Research shows that mothers with post natal depression have experienced reduction of their depression by massaging their babies.
In our busy lives, having set times assigned to baby / infant massage helps to ensure quiet time and is a very special, natural and enjoyable way both to get to know one’s baby and to help to enhance his or her development on every level. Whether baby is a new born or is already a few years old, it is not too early or too late to begin infant massage. The benefits are long lasting and the loving bond formed between parent and child will last a lifetime and beyond.