Baby massage is an ancient concept which has been routinely practised in many traditional cultures. Many Eastern cultures have routinely practised baby massage as a normal and daily part of a new babies life, for example, India. Baby massage has benefits not only for the baby but also for the parent or caregiver who is giving the massage.
What are the benefits of baby massage?
The main benefit of baby massage is bonding. Bonding is the process of attachment of a child to its parents and/or caregivers. It is the thing that connects or attaches them together. If the process has been completed in a healthy manner, the child feels safe with the parent or caregiver he/she has bonded with. For the parent it is the thing which makes them feel like they are ‘in love’ with the baby. It is the thing that makes them want to talk about or show the baby off to others incessantly, and the reason why the parents feel proud when their child achieves something. Baby massage is not the only way to bond with a baby but is a great way as it uses not just touch but sound, smell and sight to help bonding.
Apart from bonding, there are many other benefits of baby or infant massage
Interaction- promoted bonding, secure attachment, and spending quality time together, learning about your baby, nurturing touch, etc.
Stimulation- of all bodily systems (circulation, immune, digestive, etc.), communication, muscular development and tone, growth and learning ability.
Relief- gas/colic, constipation, digestive cramps, growing pains, teething discomfort, physical and psychological tension, etc.
Relaxation- improved sleep, increased flexibility, increased environmental coping strategies, reduction of stress levels and stress hormones and less hypersensitivity.
There are also many benefits for the parents/caregiver which include-
better attachment and bonding
decreased possibility of postnatal depression
gives a feeling of competence and closeness to the baby
more warmth, expressiveness, enjoyment and acceptance in interactions with their babies
Baby massage can be used with all babies, it can be of great use with special-need babies, hyperactive and overly sensitive babies, adopted, down-syndrome and autistic babies.
Can baby massage be used as my baby gets older?
You will find that once you become used to massaging your baby that you will add to the routine and adapt it to suit your baby as s/he grows. In the lessons you will be shown some ways to adjust the massage for growing children.
The following are benefits of infant massage from various studies on baby massage:
Massage caused weight gain for both premature and full-term babies (Field, Hernandez-Reif et al 2004; Field, 2001; Diego, Hernandez-Reif & Field, 2005)
Massaged led to better orientation and less excitability and depression (Field, Hernandez-Reif et al 2004)
Infants of depressed mothers who were massaged cried less (Field et al 1996)
Depressed mothers who watched their preterm babies being massaged became less depressed (Feijo et al, 2006)
Parents of disabled children felt closer to their children and less stressed after learning to massage their disabled children (Barrow and Cullen 2002)
Disabled children had better muscle tone, sleep patterns and bowel movements after regular massage (Barrow and Cullen 2002)
Children with down syndrome had better motor functioning after regular massage (Hernadez-Reif et al 2006)
Depressed mothers who massaged their preterm babies showed lower levels of anxiety (Feijo et al, 2006)
Massage led to better and deeper sleep (Field et al , 1996) Field, Hernandez-Reif et al 2004)
Coupled with carrying (kangaroo, wraps etc.) massage decreases crying
Massage led to lower rates of diarrhoea (Jump, V.K., Fargo, J.D., Akers, J.F., 2006)
Regularly massaged infants experienced slightly lower rates of illness (Jump, V.K., Fargo, J.D., Akers, J.F., 2006)
Field, T et al (1996) Massage therapy for infants of depressed mothers. Infant Behaviour & development. 19(1) 107-112
Baby massage is a course given in 4 lessons at weekly intervals with each class being about an hour long (these classes also include baby yoga and are attended with the baby) or it is a 90 minute class which can be attended before birth or after birth with the baby.
For the next set of classes or workshop see the homepage or email Jo at firstname.lastname@example.org.