Massage has been around for centuries all over the globe. Some countries put their own spin and style to it. For example, Indian, Thai and Swedish massage. There are also other techniques that are widely known for their therapeutic benefits such as reflexology and yoga. All of these are designed to relax us and ease tension and sore muscles. Most adults love nothing more than a good massage so why would we not treat our babies to this beautiful gift.
What is baby massage?
Baby massage is a long standing parent tradition in many cultures. It is often handed down through the generations. Massaging your baby provides a wonderful opportunity to express your love whilst meeting the need for touch and affection that is so essential for the healthy development of babies.
What are the benefits?
· Relaxation for baby and parent.
· Better sleep patterns.
· Helps baby self-regulate and self soothe.
· Easing of discomfort from painful gas/wind, colic, reflux and growing pains.
· Emotional development through developing a stronger bond.
· Brain development through better sensory development.
The benefits also flow onto the rest of the family because when we are relaxed our family members pick up on it. During massage we treat our baby with respect and this is something that we learn and pass onto our children.
It can be even more beneficial for parents with maternal health conditions allowing them to bond in a safe way with their baby. It also releases the bonding hormone oxytocin, which is sometimes known as the love hormone.
It is a technique that everyone can learn and can benefit that special bonding between child and parent – maternal or adopted. It is never too late to introduce the practice of massage, but as a child is older it needs to be adapted to suit the child and situation, as well as asking the child and respecting their choice.
What are others are saying?
“I am familiar with the advantages of infant massage and skin to skin contact for both the growing premature infant and the full term infant. These techniques help the parents build a bond with their premature and full term baby. The International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM) is especially skilled in teaching this technique to parents. Infant massage is very useful in calming infants and enhancing growth.”
Dr. Marshall Klaus MD is a Paediatrician and Neonatologist whose research and work have focused on the humanizing of care given to the family in the perinatal period. Dr. Klaus is the co-editor of Care of the High-Risk Infants, a mainstay in the intensive care nursery. He is also co-author of several books including Your Amazing New born, and is currently working on a book about parent-infant bonding called Bonding: Building a Secure Attachment and Independence. Dr. Klaus also serves as Adjunct Professor of Paediatrics at the University of California in San Francisco.
There are many different ideas and products that will come and go within the baby industry, but baby massage isn’t anything new. It has been around for centuries and definitely stood the test of time. Perhaps baby massage classes have become more popular recently as the usual generational passing down of the techniques have lessened due to societal changes e.g. travel, families being spread across the world.
I recently trained to be an instructor in baby massage and found it to be such an incredible experience. I was able to see the connections between baby and parent strengthen as they learnt about each other. Also the parents were able to connect and form friendships with each other, sharing experiences and advice. I think this empowers parents to feel more confident and nurtured in their role as a parent. They learn from each other building the strong community that we all want and need. I think it’s a real gift to learn and can be done by either parent.
There is so much research available to support the benefits of baby massage but a good place to start is “Infant Massage, A Handbook For Loving Parents” by Vimala McClure.