The benefits of baby massage
Just a little time each day can help your baby become calmer and happier, with fewer stress hormones and healthier immune function as massage releases endorphins, those 'feel good' hormones that help us all reduce stress. Baby massage could also make your child smarter: as well as stimulating your baby's nervous system and encouraging brain development, studies have shown that babies with lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in their blood do better at mental and motor ability tests.
In a study conducted by Dr Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, premature babies who were massaged gained 47 percent more weight per day! Massaged babies in this study were discharged from hospital six days earlier than babies in a control group and follow up studies showed lasting effects.
There is good news for tired mums too: a few simple strokes can lull your baby into a deeper, more restful sleep. According to Dr Field, a massage just before bedtime is more effective than rocking at helping your baby fall asleep and stay asleep - for more tangible evidence, just witness a group of babies after a baby massage class!
Infant massage is not only good for babies, it is good for parents too. Several studies show that mothers who suffer from postnatal depression improve when they incorporate infant massage into their daily routine, and an Australian study of baby massage and father-baby bonding, found that at 12 weeks old, babies who were massaged (by their fathers) greeted their fathers with more eye contact, smiling, vocalising and touch than those in the control group.
Perhaps one of the most significant benefits of baby massage is that it incorporates all the important elements of being a parent:
- child bonding
- skin contact
- eye contact
- hearing your voice
- experiencing a focused response
For mums who have experienced a traumatic birth or early separation from their baby, this can play an important role in developing your own confidence.
A Mother's Story
I first attended Infant Massage classes with my daughter Ruby when she was about 3 months old. Right from the first lesson the way she responded to my touch was magical. She instantly relaxed with each stroke. I found it particularly beneficial to massage her after her bath or shower each night. I always found that she slept especially well after a massage. I continued massaging her until she was about 13 months old. This was our time, our chance to bond and connect in our own special way. I showed my husband some of the strokes also, which he still uses today on Ruby's feet.
I have now come back to baby massage class with my new son Toby, who is 10 weeks old. He, like his sister instantly relaxes, and particularly likes the strokes that involve integrating his whole body and rewards me with a loving smile or chuckle when I touch him this way. At night I once again massage my baby, but this time my other baby (who is now 22 months old) is sitting beside me mimicking every stroke on her own baby doll.