You know what happens: The minute you put your baby down, she cries. Pick her up and, presto — she’s serene and smiley again. If just holding your baby can be so soothing, imagine how she’ll benefit from a full-body massage. In fact, studies have shown that massaging an infant can reduce crying and fussiness, help her sleep more peacefully, and alleviate common wail-inducers like constipation and colic. Some say that it even boosts a baby’s ability to fight off germs.
Read our article “Wondering What to Do When Babies Get Constipated? Here’s 10 Ideas!”
“When you give your baby a massage, you’re actually stimulating her central nervous system,” explains Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine. “That sets off a chain reaction: It makes her brain produce more serotonin, a feel-good chemical, and less cortisol, a hormone that’s secreted in response to stress. As a result, your baby’s heart rate and breathing slow down, and she becomes more relaxed. ” ~Parents.com
Have a preemie? Premature babies seem to benefit even more:
Massage may be particularly good for premature babies in special care, resulting in:
- Improved weight gain, particularly if oils are used. Massage stimulates a key nerve, called the vagus nerve, which connects the brain with important parts of the body, including the stomach. Stimulating this nerve can improve digestion and bowel movement, helping your baby to gain weight.
- A more stable heart rate. Massage improves the parts of the nervous system that regulate our organs. So massage can help to keep your premature baby’s heart rate steady.
- Calmer response to stress and pain.
- More stable brain activity. Premature babies who are massaged tend to have brain activity that develops at a normal level. Premature babies who are not massaged have shown a decrease in brain activity development.
These benefits may contribute to the finding that massaged premature babies tend to be well enough to go home with their families sooner than babies who aren’t massaged. ~BabyCentre
Great for bonding too!
In many ways, touch is our first language. Gentle and loving touch can help small babies grow stronger and feel less anxiety. Infants who are touched display more eye contact, smiles and vocalizations. In many hospitals and birth centers, newborns are placed on the mother’s chest or abdomen to give them as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. The touch between you and your baby brings you emotionally close — a process known as bonding or attachment.
Massage is a wonderful way to help strengthen your bond. This is the key to a child’s development, as many researchers and clinicians feel that a positive maternal child bond helps to form the basis for future relationships. ~Johnson’s
Convinced? Now for the “How-To”
Baby Massage Techniques
Isis Instructor Lynn Darbyshire demonstrates some infant massage techniques…
Ready to give your baby a full body massage?