Baby massage has a great number of benefits and some of them will be completely unique to you and your own baby. Here are some you may be interested to consider.
- Allows ‘time out’ from the stresses of the day for both parents (great for dads as well as mums!) and baby and gives an opportunity for one to one bonding time. Bonding is a “big” word! The one to one, focused, uninterrupted time sharing touch, eye contact, body smells, body sounds and voice helps you understand each other more deeply. It helps both you and your baby to be more aware of feelings you have about yourselves as individuals and for each other.
Massage time together helps build trust.
- Giving your baby massage can be a calming experience for both of you.
Massage stimulates the production of certain ‘feel good’ hormones including endorphins and oxytocin. Oxytocin in particular is ‘catchy’. So when your baby starts feeling a sense of bliss you are likely to too!
- Pain relief. Endorphins released with massage are a natural source of pain relief for the body. So if your baby is feeling sore (eg teething or suffering from some wind or colic) massage may soothe. In addition there are specific strokes for commonly experienced baby discomfits that can help to minimize distress.
- Enhances your baby’s awareness of their own body (eg size and location of body parts).
- Assists balance between ‘high’ muscle tone and ‘low’ muscle tone. Most of us tend to be a little unbalanced one way or another in terms of how we hold our posture and babies can be this way too. Some hold their bodies more tightly while others are ‘laid back’ and even overly relaxed. When we approach massage in a holistic manner we tend to add more stimulus for the ‘laid back’ baby and a more slow ‘deliberate’ approach for the ‘tense’ baby. Or you may find yourself adapting depending on the ‘mood’ arising on a particular occasion.
If your baby has special needs there may be a Certified Infant Massage Instructor in your area who can guide you (go to International Association of Infant Massage New Zealand or Australian website).
- Supports your baby’s ability to fulfil their individual developmental potential. Massage does this by supporting maturation of the nervous system, in turn assisting brain/body communication.
- Relieves physical and emotional stress in your baby. Babies who have had invasive procedures (eg medical care) and/or separation from family, a difficult birth or other event may carry anxiety about / or expressed through touch. Focused time during massage, ‘listening’ to your baby and approaching the massage with respect and sensitivity, can help to heal fear and rebuild trust and enjoyment of the ‘skin’ they live in.
- The experience of receiving massage helps your baby to be more aware of how to relieve own stress (eg through mum or dad jostling and stretching baby’s limbs your baby more readily learns to do this for themselves whenever they need it and it is a great way to release tension from the body).
- Massage may pave a smoother path through childhood illnesses because it supports a healthy immune system. Massage does this by assisting efficient circulation of blood and lymph around the body and also by engendering feelings of happiness!
- Giving massage to your baby helps them to discern what is ‘safe’ touch and therefore to recognise, as they are growing up, what is not. Vimala Schneider McClure, author of “Infant Massage, A Handbook for Loving Parents” wrote “recent findings indicate people whose infancy was secure, who were held and listened to, who had good eye contact with their parents, and who were generally cherished tend to have healthier relationships with others”.
- Massage may facilitate a peaceful sleep.
- Massage is a great way to let your baby know they are loved and cherished.
For more information see Baby Care
Contributed by Anne White
Nurse, Massage Therapist and IAIM Trained Infant Massage Instructor
Last Published* December, 2022
*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.