The Surprising Benefits of Baby Massage
By Elina Furman
Every parent wants to bond with their newborn child, while also promoting their overall health and development. There are many tips and tricks to parenting, but few are as incredible or natural as baby massage.
In India and other Eastern countries, baby massage is considered one of the most important aspects of baby rearing with many families hiring “Ammas,” women who come to the house to perform massage, on a daily basis.
For parents looking for a method to promote growth, healing, and bonding with your baby while also helping relieve many of the maternal mental health issues that can crop up in the 4th trimester, it’s important to consider just how beneficial a daily massage routine could be for both you and baby.
A University of Rochester study showed that nearly 35% of new parents in the US do not know what to expect from their newborns, or how to help them grow. Bonding doesn’t happen naturally for every parent. But massage can help. With each massage stroke, you are showing your baby that you love them and care for them and it allows for a deeper connection to grow. Baby massage also helps parents feel more competent and teaches your baby that you are a trusted and stabilizing force in their life. Ultimately, it will promote a relaxed and safe environment between the two of you which is the key to bonding.
Baby constipation, colic, reflux and gas are some of the most dreaded aspects of new parenthood.
At birth, a baby’s digestive tract is very underdeveloped and often needs a natural kick start with the aid of tummy massage and foot reflexology. Both are very easy to do. Just start by paddling baby’s tummy and do circles in a clockwise motion. For feet, concentrate on the center of the foot and make little circles to help the smaller and bigger intestines do their work. Just make sure to wait 30 minutes after feeding.
3. Brain and Motor Development
One of the reason parents don’t do baby massage more often is that they are not aware of all the cognitive benefits of massage. In fact, 23% of parents didn’t know it had any brain boosting benefits at all according to a recent study. Another incredible benefit of baby massage is that it can actually improve their motor development. Since massage is such a powerful sensory experience, it actually stimulates the brain which helps children develop their fine motor skills as they grow up. In particular, massage can help with motor development if your child has a developmental delay or disability, as evidenced by studies in the National Library of Medicine.
Since teething is so natural, we can often forget that it is a big stressor for our babies. Baby massage is a natural and safe way to help relieve muscle discomfort and jaw tension. Babies often lose sleep and experience high fevers due to every day teething pains. Massaging the jaw and gum line is a very easy and natural way to alleviate some of the pain associated with teething. Just make little circles close to the ears running down the cheeks and massage the areas around the mouth. Baby will also feel calmed by a full body massage which can lessen pain receptors and distract them from teething.
When it comes to babies and sleep, parents will try everything. That’s why it’s a big surprise that massage is not the first go-to in a mama’s toolbox. One of the best ways to encourage healthy sleep patterns is to create a serene bedtime routine. We recommended giving your baby a massage right after bath and before feeding. You should give them the massage while they are still awake and alert, but make sure they are not overstimulated or fussy. Newborns love and anticipate routine. Help them relax prior to their bedtime by creating a calming environment using dim lighting and soft music.
6. Body Awareness
Proprioception is our sense of our bodies and how we move through space. When babies are little, they have little to no awareness of their fingers, thumbs or feet. Even finding their thumb to suck is a challenge. When performing infant massage, your baby is getting an opportunity to process many different sensory inputs such as touch and pressure which helps them make those important neural connections and will help them develop a strong sense of body awareness which contribute to reaching milestones faster.
Life with baby during a pandemic is no easy feat. Once you add in cold and flu season, the last thing any parent wants is for baby to catch a virus. The wonderful thing about baby massage is that it can actually help boost baby’s immunity. During massage, you are draining the lymphatic system and flushing out the toxins in your baby’s system. It’s an immunity boost that is sorely needed during this time.
8. Weight Gain
If your baby is having difficulty putting on weight and you’re worried about their weight, consider the research. Tiffany Fields conducted research that found preemies who were massaged gained significantly more weight than those that weren’t. During the massage, you are actually stimulating what is called the Vagus nerve which helps baby’s feed and nurse more effectively which can aid in weight gain for your newborn.
9. Maternal and Paternal Wellbeing
While some mamas and papas can breeze through the post-partum period unscathed, many will experience symptoms of baby blues, depression or anxiety. Infant massage isn’t only important for your newborn baby, but also an excellent way for you to create a calming routine for your child so that you are also at your best. By taking time to calm down and connect with baby, the caretaker find that they also feel the release of those feel-good hormones like Oxytocin. Many parents also report that they feel more competent in handling their babies after consistently performing baby massage which leads to greater confidence and well-being. Creating a space to relax, recharge, and bond with your child in these early developmental years is crucial.
I’m Elina, mom of two boys ages 8 and 12. I am a baby products marketer and certified infant massage instructor. Now I’m working on my first solo business, Kahlmi. There’s no doubt we’ve all been pretty stressed out lately. Lock down and home school with babies and kids is not a task for the faint-hearted. Baby massage is the perfect activity to calm both baby and parents. That’s why I am passionate about infant massage, bonding, and helping kids with anxiety. To help spread the word about the science-backed benefits of baby/child massage, I’m developing the first handheld massager for babies and children. Sign up for our email at www.Kahlmi.com and follow along on IG @getkahlmi. Oh and if you need some baby tips and advice, follow me on Tik Tok at @kahlmi.