Across many cultures and over many centuries, parents have loved and cared for their babies. Methods and practices, even baby fashions, come and go, often going full circle and returning again. Baby massage is one of those baby care practices. It is a method has been so simple, and so successful around the world and across the generations that thankfully todays parents are also embracing these methods and spending time massaging their babies. Baby massage is good for baby, good for parents and even good for the environment. Through massage new parents can bond with their baby whilst improving their health, and supporting their development in all areas. By promoting parent and baby health and well being, we reduce the need for other interventions, most of which would otherwise increase our carbon footprint.
William Sears, MD answers the question, Why Massage Your New Baby?
“To help him breathe more rhythmically. Infants often have irregular breathing patterns, but because the skin is the largest organ of the human body and it’s rich in nerve endings, massage can help.
To stimulate growth-promoting hormones. Paediatricians have long known that babies who are touched a lot thrive. Thriving doesn’t just mean growing bigger, it means growing to your fullest potential — physically, intellectually and emotionally. A study by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine found that premature babies receiving three 15-minute massages per day for five days showed a 53 percent greater daily weight gain than unmassaged babies.
To build his brain. Studies show that newborns receiving extra touch experience enhanced neurological development. Since the brain grows fastest in the first year, that’s the time when it’s smart to give your child extra touch.
To boost his immunity. A study of human infants 10 weeks old showed that infants whose backs were massaged by their mothers experienced fewer colds and fewer occurrences of diarrhea. Conversely, touch deprivation negatively affects the immune system. Touch enhances secretion of digestive hormones and helps the baby’s digestive system work more efficiently.
To relieve stress. Researchers believe that one cause of colic is sensory overload. A stressed baby will cry. Infant massage can significantly reduce this stress by reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. “
Baby massage has clear benefits for babies, but it can be good for parents too. One study recently found that mothers with post-natal depression, who attended five massage classes had less depression and better interaction with their babies than the control group. It is interesting that not only the baby benefited but the mothers did too. It not unreasonable to generalize to the over all well being of both parent and baby.
Touching and stroking, massaging and spending time is a great way to bond with our babies. Some of this may come naturally to us, but specific massage for particular areas and for health benefits can be also be learned. Perhaps you could find local baby massage class or group to attend? If you find attending groups difficult, or your aren’t ready there is a lot of advice and information from reputable baby website, on-line, or perhaps you could have someone to one support from a practitioner, or successful baby massager friend. The main thing is to spend time together with your baby, doing what works for you. Life with a baby is busy. Parents soon learn to multitask / dash around trying to accomplish more than is probably humanely possible. This could be just the thing to slow things down.
Making massage a relaxing time for baby and parent might take some planning. Finding the right place to create a relaxing environment is an important step. It might also take some discipline, to block out distractions and focus on baby and allow both parent and baby a time and space for massage.
Find a time – preferably when your baby is happy, not tired or hungry, at least 30 minutes after a feed. Sometimes parents choose to massage before a bath, others after one, as part of the bedtime routine, but the time of day doesn’t really matter as long as it is a time when both can relax. It doesn’t need to take long either – about 10 minutes.
Find a place – somewhere you can escape and focus on each other. This might be on the floor, on the sofa, on the bed, on the bath mat – anywhere as long as the baby is safe and can’t fall. Somewhere warm as baby will be undressed.
Find a comfortable position, away from the glares of bright lights, where you and your baby can have eye contact with each other. Gentle music or singing a gentle song is optional!
Place baby on a towel, undress him or her. It’s a personal choice if you take off the baby’s diaper too, or leave it on and just loosen it. Personally I find that the massage works better when baby is totally undressed. The smooth massage runs along the body outweigh the risks of being showered by baby, or worse!
Baby massage oils can be purchased, but simple vegetable based oils work just as well. Avoid oils containing nuts, or any chemical incase the baby does ingest some.
When everything is ready, and before the massage, ask baby’s permission to massage, put oil onto your hands, rub together, and then begin! You may need to add more oil to hands during the massage.
Tried and tested by me, taught by a midwife/ baby massage specialist
There are a variety of massage routines to learn and try. This is just one. I didn’t religiously do this every day in my relaxed peaceful home sanctuary (!!) but I loved to do this before a bath close to bedtime or in any spare moment. Massaging my babies helped us to bond. What is more beautiful to touch than the warm, peachy skin of a baby? Baby massage is a way to connect with baby in the most natural way, and natural is good. Good for baby and good for the planet.
Look for courses on baby massage in your local area. For example
Birth and babies Alberta health services
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