Baby massage is simply a method that helps to reinforce the natural power of touch. It is an ancient art that has been used in many diverse cultures to help with a variety of physical and emotional needs and to promote relaxation.
When you massage your baby, it helps you to understand his subtle non-verbal language and develop your ability to listen to him, laying down the foundations of trust and security which will help you to build a happy and confident relationship with your baby for the future.
Infant massage is beneficial for you and your baby in so many ways. Studies have shown how important touch is to your growing baby and its importance for you in helping build confidence and an understanding of the new special person in your life.
The main benefits can be summarised as;
- Relief of medical problems, such as colic, constipation and wind
- Helps with sleeping problems
- Eases teething pain
- Helps congestion on the chest
- Help to clear snuffly noses
- Muscle development
- Matures the nervous system
- Creating bonds between you and your baby
- Relaxation for you both
- Helping your Baby’s Development
- Help with skin conditions such as eczema.
Babies who receive regular massages are calm and content and suffer less infections and discomfort. This leads to happier and more contented parents.
The key to a parents happiness is always through the well-being of their child and this is one of the biggest benefits of baby massage.
As a parent you always want the best for your child and learning massage together gives opportunities for being together in a positive way. Not to mention the fact that babies who are massage sleep better and for longer – and more sleep equals refreshed parents.
PND is a medical condition far from the baby blues that many women experience, and obviously I would advise seeking medical help if you haven’t already done so.
It affects 1 in 10 women following the birth of their babies and early diagnosis and treatment will result in faster recovery. A study carried out by the Imperial College of London compared mothers with PND who attended a support group to a group that attended a five week infant massage course. At the end of the test period it found that the massage group had significantly reduced feelings of depression and very significantly better interaction with their babies than the control group (www.imperial.ac.uk).
Support from family, peers and even online communities can be very beneficial alongside performing massage on your baby. Even five minutes a day during a nappy change can bring all the benefits to both of you.
Getting dad or another family member involved in massage can give you a break too. I would also advise getting a regular massage or reflexology session for yourself. As a professional therapist I have seen firsthand the power of regular, nurturing touch on the well being of my clients.
Dads can be anywhere on the scale from totally hands-on to totally hands-off and most are somewhere in between.
Getting involved in a massage routine with their baby can bring benefits such as increased bonding, improved confidence and generally being in tune together. It creates some special time for them (and let’s face it – a guaranteed break for you) which can be especially important if you are feeding, or they work long, stressful hours.
It is also practical and tangible and has ‘instructions’ to follow – at the risk of being horribly sexist – it ticks the boxes in the male psyche… something they can learn, practice and be the best at!
As we have discussed, massage has been proven to increase closeness as well as all the fantastic benefits for carers and babies.
Massage is a great ‘getting to know you’ tool and enforces the power of positive touch. For babies that may not have experienced loving touch, or have experienced pain or suffering, massage can work wonders and the benefits can be seen very quickly. Trust has to be earned and boundaries respected however gentle massage is a perfect non-verbal way to express your love for them.
Premature babies are always so close to my heart as my nephew was born at 25 weeks in 1996 when I was 15. He is now a strapping teenager but I remember so vividly seeing his tiny, bird like body covered in tubes and wires and a tiny hat in what seemed like the biggest incubator ever. The nurses and doctors worked miracles and he has no health problems and we are blessed.
The benefits of ‘kangaroo care’ (skin to skin contact) on the growth of premature babies are well documented and I see gentle massage as an extension of this. With all the tubes and needles, and the necessary medical intervention a fragile tiny baby has initially faced a great deal of negative touch so gentle stroking, touching, holding and feather light massaging will help to reverse this experience.
Special needs babies are obviously all different and it is beyond the scope of this piece to cover all conditions and how massage can help individual situations. I would advise talking to your consultant and discussing what is and is not suitable in your particular case. Particularly in the case of sensory deprivation the experience of touch brings great benefits as the other senses are heightened.