You love massages — why wouldn’t your baby? Your little one can reap amazing benefits from this popular relaxation method, and a happy baby means a happy you. Here are three reasons to try baby massage:
Help Them to Relax
Your little one isn’t stressing over work deadlines or car troubles, but there is tension in his life. Baby’s body functions and senses aren’t fully developed, and everything is new, bright and possibly overstimulating. Add to that common issues such as colic or constipation, and it’s no wonder your baby is cranky. Baby massage has shown to ease these stresses, which in turn helps babies cry less and sleep better. In addition, studies indicate premature infants who received regular gentle massages gained weight at faster rates than premature infants who did not receive massage.
Bond With Your Baby
Sure, your baby will benefit from massage, but you may get something out of it, too. Parents who regularly massage their babies report a feeling of deeper bonding with their infants, particularly with fathers, who often aren’t the ones routinely feeding their little one. As a result, dads don’t get to spend as much quality time with their baby. This is one experience they can have one-on-one with their baby and it gives the baby concentrated, uninterrupted, skin-to-skin time with their father.
Create Lasting Effects
You’ll see the immediate effects of massage when your baby drifts off to sleep, but there can be long-term benefits, as well. Evidence in Vimala McClure’s “Infant Massage,” which shows that baby massage fortifies neuron connections (which facilitates future learning), lowers stress hormones and improves immune function in infants — all benefits that last long beyond infanthood. These are the kind of brain connections that have a lasting impact throughout the child’s life.
Convinced to give baby massage a try? Great! Here are four things you need to know to get started:
- What You’ll Need
You’ll want some type of organic, edible oil, such as coconut, grapeseed or sunflower oil — so if your baby sticks his hands in his mouth during or after the massage (as you know he will!), he won’t be eating any harmful substance. Choose a warm, dim room.
- When You Should and Shouldn’t Do Infant Massage
Massage when your baby is calm and content. Doing so daily, before nap or bedtime, might be ideal because massage can leave your little one relaxed and drowsy. Simpson warns babies should not be massaged when they’re sick with fever, vomiting or have diarrhea. A massage is not for infants with jaundice, acute infections or any type of seizure disorders, if you have any concerns, consult your pediatrician or an infant massage specialist.
- Basics on Infant Massage Technique
Specific techniques vary, but infant massage can be as simple as gently rubbing your baby’s arms, legs and body. Strip him down to just a diaper, and warm a small amount of oil between your hands. Gently rub the baby’s limbs by starting at the shoulder or top of thigh and working down in a gentle, rhythmic “milking” motion. You can bicycle your baby’s legs, then turn him onto his stomach and gently sweep your hands from the center of the back out. Always use a soft and gentle touch, and watch your baby for cues about how much pressure to apply. If it seems like your baby is feeling tickled, for instance, try a firmer touch. Remember to communicate by talking or singing to your baby quietly throughout the massage. You can even simply repeat the baby’s name and a phrase or word such as “relax” to help the baby focus and release tension.
- How Long an Infant Massage Should Last
Aim for a five-minute massage the first few times, and work more time in as you both start to look forward to the routine. However, don’t force it. If your baby seems uncomfortable or uninterested in a massage, try again later. It has to be their choice and they have to be open to it. A massage can help leave your baby feeling peaceful, relaxed and even drowsy. And a sleeping baby means that you also have some precious time to relax yourself!
* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.