Massage nurtures the most important relationship any infant will ever have and that is the relationship between a parent and a baby.
Giving your baby a massage is both simple and enjoyable. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes and pick a time when you are relaxed, and your baby is quiet but alert. This could be after a nappy change or after a nice warm bath.
Before you start, make sure the room is quiet and warm. After getting some baby oil, strip your baby down to his or her nappy, and then lay them facing up on a soft towel or blanket. Begin by holding your baby's hands and gently rubbing the inside of their palms with your thumbs a few times. When the baby seems tuned in to you and there is no fussing, just a calmness, start with rubbing the soles of your baby’s feet in a circular motion with your thumbs and then move onto the legs and work your way up the body, alternating from side to side and in a circular motion.
Some of the key benefits of massage for babies are:
1.Increases the bonding between mother and child
Infant massage incorporates several elements of bonding, from eye-to-eye contact to touch and scent, alongside verbal and non-verbal communication. Trust and communication develop as you interact with your baby, helping to reduce anxiety. Your calming touch will make your infant feel loved and cared for.
2.Induces deep relaxation and improves a baby’s sleeping patterns
Infants who are regularly massaged by their parents before bed tend to fall asleep faster, sleep more deeply and stay asleep longer.
A baby massage boosts the production of melatonin which is the hormone that tells the brain to “slow down” and to prepare to sleep, thus influencing the natural cycles that tell the body to be active during the day and sleep during the night. Massaged babies tend to be more relaxed and content because they have been relieved of digestive issues such as colic and gas that can hinder them from sleep and the stress of separation is eased by the bonding that has taken place during the massage.
3.Relieves the discomfort associated with aliments
Baby massage offers relief for many common childhood ailments such as colic, constipation, growing pains, teething, and sinuses by increasing circulation and stimulating the digestive system.
For colic relief, for example, give your baby a belly massage and then bend their knees up to the tummy and hold for about 30 seconds before releasing. Place the side of one hand on your baby’s stomach and glide down from the belly button in a rhythmic pattern to release any pent-up gas.
4.Improves a baby’s immunity system while enhancing cognitive and physical development
Massage can enhance oxygen and nutrient flow to cells and improve breathing patterns and lung health (respiration). It can enhance the release of hormones, including growth hormones to help with weight gain, and can spark neurons in the brain to grow and branch out to improve mental processing/skills (cognition).
Infant Massage Benefits Parents Too..
However, giving a massage is just as rewarding as receiving one and the benefits for parents may include:
1.Increased confidence, competence, and self-esteem in your role as a parent
Infant massage helps increase confidence when handling a baby as not everyone feels confident when their baby first arrives. The bonding time spent with your baby helps build trust and aids communication as you, as a parent, will learn what the cues are from your baby. This enables parents to meet their child’s needs and feel more capable in their new role.
2.Alleviates the symptoms of post-natal depression
The early stages of parenting can be the most challenging and lonely. Getting out of the house and attending class can make all the difference and can often be the one thing needed to break the cycle of depression. Massaging your baby produces a hormone called Oxytocin, otherwise known as the ‘love drug’ enhancing the bond you both share.
3.Improves the relationship between a father and child
Fathers may feel dissatisfied with their ability to form a close attachment with their infants in the early postpartum period, which, in turn, may increase their parent-related stress. Infant massage can help fathers who want to be emotionally bonded with their baby and allow them to spend time together. Although baby massage is normally at home, fathers can attend massage classes, and this will allow them to share parenting experiences with other fathers in a similar position.
4. It is fun and relaxing
Baby massage encourages parents to unwind and relax in a quiet and peaceful environment, all whilst listening to their baby. It is time set aside for you and your child to bond, make eye contact, and enjoy that special one-on-one time.
Massaging may not come naturally to all parents so do not be discouraged. Practice a few times and with each practice, you will develop that relationship and your baby will thank you for it.