Infant massage is the most simple and effective ways for parents and others to promote bonding through touch, while stimulating their baby’s growing brain at the same time. Studies have shown that the babies who receive the massage as well as the person who gives the massage experience many physiological benefits. Infant massage improves bonding of all family members ― parents, grandparents and siblings all benefit from massaging the baby.
Massage Has Great Benefits For:
- Colicky babies – abdominal strokes help the baby pass gas and feel better.
- Preterm babies – skin to skin contact as well as massage is very beneficial. A study showed that preemie babies who were massaged for 15 minutes, 3 times per day had on average a 47% greater weight gain, showed greater alertness and responsiveness, and were released on average 6 days earlier than the babies who weren’t massaged.
- Babies born addicted to drugs also benefit from infant massage. The results were almost identical as to the benefits for preterm babies.
- These babies were better able to cope with their symptoms from drug addiction and adapted more easily to the world around them.
- Adopted babies – massage helps improve the bonding process, especially if the baby is older when adopted.
- Building relationships between fathers, mothers, grandparents and siblings with the baby.
All massaged babies benefit in four general areas:
- Relaxation: Infants tense their muscles when they cry and massage can help the baby learn to relax those tense muscles.
- Relief: Gas produced from digestion and wastes can be hard to eliminate. Massage strokes over the abdomen can help the baby to eliminate excess gas and can improve his bowel movements.
- Stimulation: Massage stimulates many of the baby’s body systems and improves their function.
- Digestion: Massage helps to improve the baby’s weight gain and digestive process. Abdominal strokes help to move the digesting food through the intestines. It serves to decrease the production of stress hormones, which improve the function of digestive hormones.
- Brain and Nerve Activity: The most active period of growth and development for a baby’s brain is the first 3 to 5 years of her life. The baby learns how to move her body, how to speak at least one language, how to behave in society, and how to love family and friends.
As the baby becomes aware of her environment, her sensory organs (eyes, ears, tongue, skin, etc.) send messages to the brain. The brain then interprets these messages and sends instructions down to the body as to how to deal with the environment. For example, if a one-year-old sees her favorite toy in the corner of the room, her brain gets the message from her eyes where the toy is. It then sends messages to the baby’s muscles and limbs to crawl or walk over to pick up the toy. The more the brain is stimulated, the more connections (or synapses) between areas of the brain are established, and the brain becomes more efficient at processing information sent to it by the senses. When parents massage their babies, they stimulate all of the baby’s skin and limbs. This in turn sends messages to the baby’s brain. The baby learns about her limbs, fingers, toes etc., and in turn sends messages down to move those same body parts. Infant massage also gives the baby a time to connect with the person giving her the massage, as she receives one-on-one attention and affection. Massage is a wonderful way for parents to strengthen their relationships with their newborns.
- Breathing: massage over the chest area helps the baby to clear mucus in his lungs. It also helps him to breathe more deeply.
- Interaction: Infant massage allows the parent and child to spend time together. The parent can play games, laugh, sing and talk to the baby throughout the massage. The baby receives a warm loving touch that helps him to relax and learn all about the parent in front of him.
Infant massage is also great for older siblings of new babies. The strokes can be modified to accommodate larger bodies and longer limbs. If you can, I strongly encourage you to massage your baby on a daily basis. Your baby’s health will improve, and yours will, too.