7 Great Reasons to Massage Your Baby
If you’ve ever had a massage, you will know how good you feel afterward. That is because massage has been shown to release a whole host of feel good hormones, and reduce the feel bad hormones in your body. Well, the same goes for your baby! Baby massage can help with a wide range of common concerns amongst parents, and lead not only to a happier healthier baby, but more relaxed parents as well. So, what are some of the benefits? And how do you go about massaging your baby effectively?
Benefits to Baby
Babies benefit enormously from massage – and by extension their parents do too!
- Sleep – not only will massage help settle your baby, but it will improve their quality – and quantity – of sleep, leading to a more rested baby and more rested parents!
- Relaxation – massage decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) and increases hormones like serotonin and oxytocin, which improve mood and create calm. And doesn’t everyone want a calm and relaxed baby?
- Digestion – many babies suffer from colic, wind, reflux or constipation. This is not only painful for them, but makes them unhappy. Massage assists with the normal functioning of the digestive system and reduces the effects of all these problems.
- Immunity – research shows that immunity and overall physical wellbeing is improved with massage.
- Growth and Development – massage stimulates the communication between the right and left sides of the brain, which improves the co-ordination which is so important in learning to grasp, crawl and walk. It has also been shown to improve cognitive development.
- Congestion – specific massage techniques have been shown to reduce congestion in the sinus and lungs when baby has a cold, which of course helps them breathe more easily.
- Pain Relief – massage increases the production of endorphins, which have been shown to reduce the perception of pain, so when baby is teething, or in pain for any reason, massage can help give them some natural relief.
A word about Premmies
Premature babies often spend a lot of time in incubators. Sadly, they often also have to undergo many tests and procedures that full-term babies don’t. These tests can be uncomfortable and stressful for both baby and parents.
Along with Kangaroo Care – which we will go into in more detail in an upcoming blog on Skin to Skin – massage can have an enormously positive effect on premmie babies. Not only can it help their little lungs and tummies function better, but research has shown it can help them increase in weight faster, leading to shorter hospital stays.
Benefits to Parents
If the benefit of a calm, relaxed baby who eats and sleeps well isn’t enough, there are also benefits to parents in baby massage.
Whether it is mum or dad doing the massage, both bonding and confidence are increased when they massage baby. For mums, massage has been shown to reduce the likelihood of postnatal depression. It seems that not only does receiving a massage increase feel good hormones, but giving one does too!
How do I Massage my baby?
Massage doesn’t just mean stroking or rubbing your baby’s arms and legs. There are different techniques that can be used for different results. So it is best to get proper training from a qualified Baby Massage practitioner.
What is the best time to massage my baby?
Once you have learned how to massage your baby, you can do so whenever you want or need to. Some people like to have a schedule – others like to do it when they have time and feel the need.
Babies have a cycles of alertness, drowsiness and sleep. Ideally, you should massage your baby during their ‘Quiet Alert’ time.
Graph courtesy of Infant Massage Information Service
With very young babies – under 6 months – it is a good idea to avoid massage at bath time and immediately before bed time as it can overstimulate them. But as they get older, a massage at bath time or before bed can be relaxing for both baby and parent.
One more thing…
It might be tempting to use essential oils in massaging your baby, but you need to be careful. Babies have a very sensitive sense of smell, and being able to smell their parent, rather than lavender or lemon myrtle, will help with the bonding. That being said, there are certain essential oils that will help if you are having trouble with sleep, pain or colic. And of course, it needs to be edible – look for a cold pressed fruit, nut or seed oil. Babies have a habit of putting hands and feet in their mouths, and if you are using a diluted essential oil take care to keep it off baby’s hands. Your massage instructor will be able to give you advice on what oils are best to use and where to get them.
If you would like to learn how to massage your baby , I will be running baby massage classes, and one on one sessions and would love to teach you how. Or if you would just like to chat about anything pregnancy, birth or postpartum related, just contact me