Infant Massage – The Perfect Way
for Mom and Dad to Bond with Baby
Soft as a baby’s skin. Smooth as a baby’s bottom. If skin-to-skin contact wasn’t important to us, we wouldn’t use these sayings, would we? It’s important to baby, too, as touch is an infant’s first means of communication and its first cues for learning.
Much has been made about skin-to-skin bonding between mother and baby in the first hours after birth. Research has shown this bonding helps maintain baby’s temperatures, facilitates more successful breastfeeding, stabilizes baby’s breathing and often results in less crying by baby.
It’s a 400,000 year evolution of a mother’s instinct to preserve her infant’s life.
The first bonding period may be over within hours, but the special skin-to-skin connection between mom and baby need not end. In fact, dad can be brought into this special connection as well.
Infant massage is one of the best ways to continue with that very important forging of bonds between parent and child – bonds that are beneficial to the physical and mental health of mom, dad and baby. The country of India is best recognized for its tradition of infant massage. Its benefits are even listed in an ancient Indian medical text dating back to 1800 B.C.
What are the Benefits of Infant Massage?
Infant massage continues that skin-to-skin connection, and, based on long-used therapies, introduces an element of promoting internal health of the baby. It’s possible to relieve gas, colic and constipation, help baby sleep better and promote good circulation and digestion, all while deepening that bond of affection between you. Other benefits are enhanced development of the nervous system and immune function, the stimulation of neurological development and stabilization of certain hormones.
As interest in infant massage grows in the western world, classes and educational information on infant massage are becoming more and more available, and more massage therapists are adding it to the services they offer. Check with family resource agencies or massage therapists in your area. If possible, learn more about infant massage before the happy day arrives so you can easily transition from the early bonding period to a daily massage routine.
Infant Massage Tips
It’s important to find professional advice, information or training because, of course, any good thing can be overdone; massage is the practice of soft tissue manipulation and, in the case of an infant, it’s important that your touch is light and nurturing. A professional can also help you learn how to read cues from your baby about what is working, what isn’t working and when they’ve had enough, fostering a closer connection between you.
Practitioners recommend using a plant based oil like grapeseed or almod, warmed on your hands, and make sure the room is warm, and not too bright. Massage routines usually include massaging the legs and arms, tummy, chest and back (not the spine) as well as the hands and feet, and even the face. One massage session need last no longer than 15 minutes, but should probably start at about five. It’s best to use the same time of day for each massage, and that will depend on you and your baby.
There are lots of great books and DVDs available to help you learn Infant Massage and incorporate it into you and your baby’s routine:
- Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents
- Baby Massage Therapy: Newborns, Infants & Toddlers
- Loving Hands: The Traditional Art of Baby Massage
- An Infant Massage Guidebook: For Well, Premature, and Special Needs Babies
Finally, turn off your cell phone and tune out the rest of the world. This time is just for you and your baby.