Some of the benefits of baby massage include better sleep for the baby, reduced stress and cranky behavior, relief from flatulence, improved motor development and relief from congestion.
New moms have unending doubts and ideas running through their minds. These include managing the pain and stress experienced by an infant during the initial stages of life. Baby massage has been considered as one of the most effective techniques for improving infant health. It not only relieves stress and various pains, it also supports proper development of body organs and the limbs.
Psycho-Social Benefits of Baby Massage
Touch is the primary communication received by a newborn. Infant massage has been a longstanding tradition. Being caressed and touched through massage also acts as psychological food for your infant. It is the best form of touch therapy for infants. It is a communicative approach and helps parents relax the baby as well as connect in a positive way.
The key benefits of baby massage can be listed as:
- Development of attachment and bonding with the parent
- Better self-esteem
- Development of positive connection between body, mind and spirit
- Better sense of love, respect, trust and acceptance
- Better communication
However, it is not only the baby who benefits from the massage. Infant massage also provides benefits to the parents in following ways:
- Better parenting skills
- Improved ability to read cues offered by the infant
- Improved bonding between the parent and the baby
- More confident parenting
- Improved communication – verbal as well as non-verbal
- Provides quality time with the child
Physical Benefits of Baby Massage
Massage is one of the best ways to improve the health of your infant. Just as adults benefit from a massage, there are numerous benefits associated with infant massage for better physical development. Some important ones have been listed below:
- Better sleep: Infant massage helps in increasing serotonin levels in the body. This neurotransmitter is known to regulate mood. High levels of serotonin provide a feeling of well-being. As a result, it ensures better sleep that is deeper and more restful.
- Reduces stress and cranky behavior: It is common for babies to cry for various reasons. General reasons causing your baby to cry or act cranky include discomfort, pain in legs or abdomen, tiredness or improper sleep. Regular massage can relieve your infant from pains and discomforts, thus providing better sleep. This further reduces the crying and cranky behavior of the infant.
- Relief from flatulence: Many infants experience chronic abdominal pain due to intestinal gas. Belly massage increases the pace of waste removal from body. This way, trapped wind is also easily released by the body.
- Relieves digestion problems: Massage speeds up the natural progression of food along the digestive tract. This way, the massage has proven to be helpful is eliminating problems like constipation and acid reflux.
- Strengthens the immune system: Just like massage benefits various physiological processes in the body, it also benefits the immune system. Regular massage gives a newborn baby’s immune system a boost, thereby keeping common ailments at bay.
- Improves weight: Some babies are underweight at the time of birth. Massage provides significant improvement in the weight gain process, thus providing healthy weight to underweight infants.
- Improves motor development: Baby massage stimulates the nervous system. This makes the infants more aware about their body’s functions during the massage process. This way, infant massage improves flexibility, co-ordination and muscle control.
- Relieves congestion: In addition to benefits like speeding up of nervous system and providing relief from digestion problems, baby massage also provides relief from congestion. Massage aids improved drainage of sinuses, thus preventing fluid accumulation in the sinuses and airways.
Baby Massage Tips
Generally, people appoint masseur or professional caretakers for infant massage. It is, however, recommended your massage your baby yourself. This would provide better bonding and an affectionate relationship between you. You can take guidance from elders in the family or your doctor for proper massage techniques.
Important Massage Moves:
Check out the following massage moves to get started with the process.
- Head Massage
Apply some oil on your baby’s body. Then massage with fingertips in extremely gentle, circular motions all around the head.
- Neck Massage
Support the head and upper body of your child on one hand. Use the other hand to massage the neck with thumb and first two fingers in gentle, circular motions.
- Belly Massage
Put your hands at the navel. With your fingertips, massage in gentle yet firm circular motions over the tummy. Repeat these motions a few times.
- Colic-relief Massage
After the belly-massage, bend the baby’s knees up to the tummy. Hold the position for about 30 seconds and release. Repeat 2 to 3 times. After that, put one hand’s edge on his/her belly. Start gliding downwards from the belly button in a rhythmic pattern. This will help in releasing built-up gas in the stomach.
- Arm Massage
Roll the baby’s arms gently between the hands. Start from shoulders and move down towards the wrist. Repeat it twice or three times, and then focus on other arm.
- Leg Massage
The movements for leg massage are similar to those used for massaging the arms. Start from the thighs and move down to the ankles. Repeat 2 to 3 times for each leg.
Some important things to take care of during infant massage have been listed below.
- Regular massage schedule
Make it a routine to massage your baby at same time every day. This would make him/her expect and then enjoy the massage. Select a time when you are not in a rush to complete other household tasks. Also, make sure your child is neither too hungry nor too full before massage.
- Select a good massage oil
Go for edible massage oil that is unscented. Cold-pressed vegetable or fruit oil is also a good choice. These oils aid easy gliding of hands over the baby’s body. Some of the best options include canola, coconut, corn, grape seed, olive, avocado, apricot and safflower oils. These oils get easily absorbed by the skin. Just a dab of oil is sufficient for massage. It is best to avoid mineral oils as these might lead to clogging of pores.
- Be gentle
Make your movements as gentle as possible. One smart tip is to apply strokes in directions that move away from the heart. For example, from shoulder to wrist and from thigh to ankle. These movements are more relaxing and suitable for better sleep. Applying strokes towards heart are more stimulating and keep the baby active when awake.
- Select a comfortable place
Find a place for massage that is comfortable for you as well as the baby. The place should also be warm enough to prevent the baby from catching a chill. Playing relaxing music in the background can enhance the effects of massage. Other ways to boost massage results include singing or talking to your baby during the process.
- Notice cues offered by your infant
Just like adults, babies also don’t like to be massaged if they aren’t in a good mood. If your baby frowns, turns away or cries on being touched, postpone the massage session. Moreover, it is not necessary to massage the whole body every time. Follow the indications given by your baby. Sometimes rubbing the hand and feet is sufficient to relax and benefit your baby.
Besides the above mentioned benefits of infant massage, it has also been noted baby massage relieves postnatal depression among many women. This is because of the quality time spent together by the baby and mother. Infant massage has been known to be the most vital and dynamic interaction to lay the foundation of a unique mother-child bond.