Never underestimate the enormous benefits of baby massage. Parenting advisor Sister Lillian explains why it’s one of the best ways to calm and connect with your baby.
One of the main benefits of baby massage is linked to harnessing the power of touch and using it to bond with your baby. Touch is an amazing experience that has a way of integrating the mind, emotions and body, says Sister Lillian. It also helps to release tension in your little one’s body and allows those feel-good endorphins and neurotransmitters such as serotonin to perform their relaxing, calming and healing functions. This is why researchers have found regular massage helps babies sleep better.
Although it’s a simple and easy thing to do, the effect of baby massage is powerful. By trusting your instincts and responding to your baby’s reaction and body language, you can successfully and confidently massage your baby. Even little ones who are tactile defensive (don’t like to be touched) and are initially resistant to touch techniques will get used to being massaged and start to enjoy it – even if it takes some time.
Benefits of baby massage for you:
- Seeing your baby smile makes you happy, right? This starts a cycle that leads to better bonding and a joyful relationship between you and your little one.
- If you were a little worried about handling your tiny baby after birth, the good news is, baby massage will slowly but surely give you more confidence when it comes to holding and caring for your little one.
- Studies have shown that regular baby massage helps to soothe a colicky baby. So ,rather than feeling helpless when your little one cries for hours, massage allows you to feel in control and be proactive, which reduces the anxiety-crying-tension cycle between you and your baby, particularly at the end of the day when you’re both tired.
- Baby massage will help you tune in to your little one. In fact, this type of bonding will help you be more aware of your baby’s natural rhythm, as well as her likes and dislikes.
- Many parents have reported baby massage is a relaxing, and enjoyable experience.
ALSO SEE: 10 ways the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin benefits you and your baby
Benefits of massage for your baby:
Instant short-term benefits:
- Massage is soothing and relaxing, resulting in a happier, more secure baby
- Improves circulation
- Helps reduce colic and crying
- Immediately improves bonding between you and your baby
- Keeps skin nourished and supple
- Helps to treat tactile defensiveness
- Helps to establish a daily routine
- Regular massage helps to strengthen the immune response by lowering stress hormone levels and by improving drainage of toxic substances from the lymph nodes.
- Strengthens and tones your baby’s muscles and joints.
- Improves overall sleep patterns.
- Improves coordination.
- Promotes growth – especially in low- and slow weight-gain babies.
- Promotes physical self-awareness and, therefore, a positive body image later in life.
- Stimulates and improves non-verbal skills to improve self-esteem and social awareness.
When therapeutic massage is needed
Although all babies benefit immensely from infant massage, certain babies need therapeutic massage. Those born quickly via an emergency C-Section or a traumatic vaginal delivery often need the emotional and physical benefits of massage, as do babies admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit, were separated from their moms after birth or who are very ill, explains Sister Lillian.
The good news is, baby massage works wonders to calm premature babies and those who are away from their parents a lot. Allergic, colicky, restless, high-need, crying babies and those with sleeping problems reap the rewards of therapeutic massage too.
Sister Lillian also believes that tactile-defensive babies respond well to a dedicated massage programme, which has been found to help with muscle tone, spatial awareness and adaptation to their environment. Babies who aren’t developing as well as they should often do far better with dedicated infant massage.
Gently massaging the following areas on your baby’s body will help to optimise the benefits of massage:
- Massage between the eyebrows in a circular motion using your index finger from the side or above (don’t cover your baby’s face with your hand).
- Using both index fingers, massage your baby’s temples with gentle circular strokes.
- Slide your index and middle fingers down your baby’s cheekbone and up to the back of her ear, gently rubbing up and down behind it.
- With your index finger, massage the point midway on the imaginary line between your baby’s nipples.
- Glide your finger down to the point just below your baby’s navel and massage with your fingertip in a clockwise direction.
- Gently glide your hand down to your baby’s foot. Grasp the big toe, pull upwards and wiggle slowly with circular movements.
A few safety tips to keep in mind:
- Remove all your jewellery (rings, bracelet and watch) when massaging your baby.
- Keep your nails clipped short. Long nails can scratch your little one.
- If you warmed the oil, make sure it’s not too hot before you massage your baby.
- Be careful not to put too much pressure on your baby’s body when you give her a massage – especially in the spine and neck area.
- Always avoid massaging your little one in areas where she’s had an injection or vaccinations as this may hurt.
Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals. Meet the Living & Loving Team and our Online Experts.