Baby massage is all the rage today. In fact, many hospitals and birthing centers have posters and brochures encouraging parents to massage their tiny infants. Life with a newborn, however, can be very overwhelming, and because of this, many parents do not take the time to participate in an infant massage routine. They do not realize that infant massage helps mom and baby bonding as well as some other significant benefits both for the parents and for the baby.
Infant massage has many benefits for your baby’s sleep cycle. Infant massage helps teach your baby the way to relax. As with all things, babies have to learn the art of relaxation. Babies who are massaged often tend to sleep better and more restfully than babies who are not massaged.
Massaging infants also has many physiological benefits for the babies. Many parents are surprised to learn that babies who are massaged have a stronger immune system compared with babies that are not massaged. Also, babies who are involved with a massage routine gain weight at a healthier rate. Massage also stimulates the hormones that lead to the proper growth and development of the baby. Babies who are touched frequently have more developed sensory awareness than those that are not frequently touched. Finally, massage is one of the best ways to relieve gas and colic in babies.
There are also psychological benefits to infant massage. Massage creates a bond between the parent and the baby that cannot be easily duplicated. Babies crave the touch of their parents, and the soothing movements of infant massage meet that psychological need. Psychologically, massaging a baby helps parents feel more confident in their skill with handling a baby. It also teaches the parents what their baby needs and what their different cues mean. Since massage helps sooth colicky, gassy babies, parents are more centered because they have something they can do to calm their otherwise inconsolable baby.
Massaging a baby does not have to be complicated. Begin learning how to massage when your baby is already calm and relatively still. It is best to work on massage when baby is not hungry. Go to a warm room, and remove as much clothing as possible. Skin to skin contact is especially important to infants. Put a little baby lotion or oil on your hands, and rub them together to warm up the liquid. Stroke your baby from the center of the body towards the extremities. Remember to spend time on those adorable little feet! The first massage should only last a few minutes, perhaps five or less, but as you and your baby become more comfortable, start increasing the time of massage for as long as your baby enjoys the massage.
Once you become comfortable with massaging your baby, start a nightly routine. Try massaging your baby before bedtime, so that your baby learns how to relax and go to sleep. You will find that your infant massage routine becomes one of your favorite routines with your little one. You will love the bond it creates, and your baby will quickly learn to trust you and enjoy the calming touch of your hands.