In keeping with last week’s theme of massage for expectant mothers, this week I am going to discuss infant massage. Most people don’t think of massage as something you’d perform on a baby, but it definitely can be. That’s not to say that you should bring your baby to your massage therapist and ask her to stick an elbow into your baby’s back and work out the knots. It doesn’t work that way. Infant massage is something that the parent or caregiver provides for the child. It offers benefits to the recipient as well as the care giver!
Benefits for Baby
Babies benefit from massage much in the same way adults do. Receiving massage relaxes the baby, boosts circulation, promotes a healthier sleep cycle, boosts the immune system and improves the skin.
There are benefits of massage that are exclusive to babies, too. Touch is the first sense that develops in a forming fetus, and it is how babies introduce and familiarize themselves with the world around them. Human contact stimulates the release of oxytocin in the brain. This is a bonding hormone that also acts as a pain reliever (teething!), and can make the baby feel calm. Massage over the baby’s belly can aide digestion and waste elimination.
Massaging your baby forms a bond between the two of you. Children whose parents have more positive physical contact with them feel more loved, due to the release of oxytocin, and the amount of attention focused on the child. If given often, massage will positively affect the psychology, behavior, and social development of the baby.
Benefits for the Caregiver
The biggest benefit of infant massage for the parent is a boosted self-esteem. Parents who give their babies massage report feeling more confident in their ability to care for the child. This is probably due to the bonding that occurs between you and the infant while you are performing the massage. Research done by the Touch Research Institute found also found that fathers who massaged their infant for fifteen minutes prior to bedtime were more expressive and showed more enjoyment and warmth while playing with their infant.
Giving your baby a massage will also help you learn more about your child’s needs and desires. You will begin to understand and respond to the baby’s cues, and you learn what helps calm the baby. Performing infant massage is a different way for your to nurture your child and become close with him. Doing this for your child can also help you to relax.
What IS Infant Massage
Infant massage is not the same thing an adult would receive on my massage table. Infant massage can be done in the home, with the baby in his crib, or even on the parent’s lap. The session also does not need to last for an hour. 10-20 minutes will suffice. The pressure used should be gentle and caring.
The following video will show you how to give your baby a great massage!
Touch Research Institute of Miami
Cullen, C., Field, T., Escalona, A. & Hartshorn, K. (2000). Father-infant interactions are enhanced by massage therapy. Early Child Development and Care, 164, 41-47.
Cigales, M., Field, T., Lundy, B., Cuadra, A., & Hart, S. (1997). Massage enhances recovery from habituation in normal infants. Infant Behavior and Development, 20, 29-34.
Benefits of Infant Massage