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Baby Massage: What It Is and Why It’s Important

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Skin to skin touch is vital for the happy and healthy development of a newborn. Touch helps a baby to feel safe, nurtured and loved and helps to develop the bonds between parent and child. Babies find a gentle laying on of hands very relaxing and even therapeutic, and touch can also be incredibly important for parents.

Infant massage is a great way to promote this loving bond. But more than that, massage offers a large number of benefits to both the child and the parents.

However, massaging a baby is very different to massaging an adult. Babies have incredibly sensitive and easily damaged skin, as well as delicate little bodies that need to be handled carefully. So it’s important to know how to handle the little ones and the techniques suitable for infant massage.

Let’s have a look at the benefits and some tips for giving your little one a soothing massage.

Benefits of Infant Massage

According to Stanford Medicine, studies show that skin-to-skin contact offers a wealth of benefits for mothers and babies from the moment of birth, throughout infancy and beyond. As babies grow, infant massage provides a natural next step to continue this bond and its benefits.

Benefits of infant massage include:

  • Using touch to calm and comfort the infant and promote feelings of love and safety
  • Improve sleep patterns
  • Improve digestion and elimination
  • Reduce fussiness and colic
  • Increase their comfort in their environment
  • Promote weight gain
  • Assist with lactation production for mothers
  • Help to relax and comfort both babies and parents
  • Help with muscle development
  • Improve circulation

Infant massage may also help with cognitive development in infants. Studies suggest that there’s a relationship between skin-to-skin touch and the development of intelligence. Research suggests that tactile stimulation a baby receives within the first month to year of life can impact their brain development permanently.

Touching and skin to skin contact can also help to enhance the bond between the parents and infant. Research also suggests that infant massage is especially helpful for mothers with postpartum depression who have trouble bonding with their babies.

Baby Massage Oil

Is baby massage safe?

With babies’ soft skin, undeveloped muscles and rapidly growing and changing bodies, many parents wonder if it’s safe to massage a baby.

The answer is yes, provided you understand that massaging an infant is very different to giving an adult a massage. There are a few massage tips you should follow.  

  • Use an appropriate massage oil

If you’re using a massage oil, an appropriate baby massage oil should be selected. The oil should be edible and safe for the child. Use only a small amount and avoid using baby oil, mineral oils or nut oils (since they can provoke allergic reactions). Avoid oils with artificial dyes, artificial perfumes, parabens, PEG, or EDTA.

  • Be gentle

It goes without saying that being gentle is essential. Avoid applying too much pressure and understand what stimulates and what relaxes. Massage direction is important. Stroke away from the heart (shoulder to wrist, for example) to relax the child before naps or bedtime. Stroke toward the heart (from wrist to shoulder) to stimulate while the baby is awake and active.

  • Create the right atmosphere

To get the full benefit of the massage, you need a space that’s calming for the parent and the child. The room should be warm and quiet. The surface should be soft and comfortable and the lighting not overly bright. Some soothing music can also help, as can talking or singing to the baby. 

  • Follow baby’s cues

Not every time is right for a massage. Your baby will let you know if they’re not in the mood to be touched. If they turn away, fidget, frown or cry when you touch, then maybe now is not the time. And remember, you don’t have to give a full-body massage every time. If your baby decides they’ve had enough after you’ve rubbed their legs and feet, that’s fine. You should also keep the massage short and sweet. Five to 10 minutes should be enough.

Finally, before making massage part of your daily routine, you should check with your pediatrician to find out if your baby has any underlying conditions or concerns that could be affected by a massage.

Also, check out Essential Items for those First Few Weeks of Motherhood

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