Enough just cannot be said about the advantages of touch for your baby every day. The physical contact between a child and a parent that comes with massaging your newborn increases the infant’s health and vigour, from bodyweight to bone mass. Baby massage is the alternative practice of gently and rhythmically stroking your baby as a way of bonding and healing.
During skin-to-skin contact, a mother’s chest naturally adjusts to the amount of warmth and comfort her baby requires, while touch and massage have been shown to significantly reduce infant crying and distress. It has also been determined that, under accepted guidelines, infant massage can increase weight gain in premature babies.
“Baby massage is a wonderful experience between parent and child. It is time whereby the parent uses loving touch to help soothe, stimulate and gently relax their baby.” – Joanne Bradley
While there are numerous benefits for baby during massage, the main benefit is considered to be the bonding that takes place between the parents and baby during the process.
Benefits of massage for typical babies
- All baby’s systems are stimulated during massage.
- Teaches baby to relax and become calmer and more content.
- Massage improves your baby’s blood circulation, digestion and inner equilibrium.
- Massage relieves tummy aches, winds and colic.
- Touching your baby teaches them about communication.
- Massage may relieve pain and the symptoms of some ailments.
- Massage helps move lymph fluid around the body, boosting baby’s immune system.
- Massage furthers the development of the digestive tract and the respiratory organs.
- Research has shown that babies who are touched lovingly become less ill and cry less often than those who are not.
- Massage can also improve your little one’s sleep patterns, especially when it is done as part of the bed, and bath-time routine.
Always ask your baby for permission to give them a massage. This is a way opening of communication and should be followed with eye-to-eye contact along with further talk. Massage baby after bath time, when you would apply cream to the body. Make this a positive time and use slow, elongated movements and gentle, but firm, pressure to interact with your baby.
A simple baby massage technique
Use long, slow strokes and always keep one hand on your baby and maintain eye contact with them.
- With warm hands and baby oil, gently rub baby’s scalp in circles with your fingertips, avoiding the fontanelle or “soft spot”.
- Move up the nose to the forehead and down to the cheeks in a circle.
- When massaging the torso, place your hands flat on baby’s chest, move them upwards and spread them over the rib cage.
- Then stroke the abdomen in a U-shape.
- Rub both arms gently from shoulder to wrist and then each finger.
- Do the same for the legs all the way to the ankles and the feet.
- Turn baby over onto the stomach and give long, smooth strokes all the way from the shoulder, down the back and legs.
What not to do
- Caution should always be taken when you massage with essential oils as they can be harmful to your baby if they are not recommended by a qualified aromatherapist.
- Do not massage the baby if they have a fever, unusual heart condition or blood pressure problems and do not massage over broken skin.
Remember to be very gentle with your baby and to take your time. If the massage is making your baby fretful, stop and try again another day. The experience should be pleasant for both of you, and it is a great way to get dads involved at this early stage.