4 Benefits of Infant Massage
Soon after my second baby was born, I met another mom who swore by the healing powers of baby massage. Of course I had read about it in the past, but never learned more about it. After I watched her baby fall into a total state of calmness with a bit of massage, I was intrigued. A quick google search led me to many research based articles on the benefits of infant massage and another search led me to a list of infant massage classes in my area. Soon I found myself in a classroom with my baby and together we learned all about infant massage. After our series of classes, infant massage became part of our daily routine, as much as diaper changing and cuddling. Still to this day my son, who is now two, enjoys a quick back rub, paticularly when he is cranky or over tired.
Infant massage is a regular part of parenting in other countries such as Africa and the South Pacific. It continues to be passed on from generation to generation . In the United States, infant massage is slowly becoming more popular, but still is a fairly new parenting practice. Clinical research on the benefits of infant massage began in the 1970s. Multiple studies have supported a wide range of benefits of infant massage, paticularly for premature and medically fragile babies. Specifically, studies have shown an increase in weight gain, improved myelination of nerves and improved immune system, which all encourage emotional, cognitive and physical developmental growth.
Full term, healthy babies can also enjoy the many advantages of infant massage, including improved weight gain, neurological development and digestion. Here are just a few of the benefits that you and your baby can experience with the power of touch:
Benefits of Infant Massage
1. Reduced Stress
Many studies have shown that touch decreases levels of Cortisol, which is the stress hormone our body produces. Infants with an abnormally high level of Cortisol can experience damage to the hippocampus, the area of their brain that controls memory and cognition.
2. Improved Sleep
In addition to infant massage reducing levels of stress from new daily experiences, it also encourages the baby and parent to relax. Once an infant is in a relaxed state, studies have shown that they sleep deeper and for longer periods of time. A study conducted by Ferber SG and colleagues demonstrated that “infants who were massaged before bedtime adjusted to a more favorable rest-activity cycle by the age of 8 weeks and produced more melatonin, a sleep regulator, during the night by the age of 12 weeks.”
3. Improved Family Bonding
When performing infant massage, the hormone oxytocin, also known as the feel good hormone, is released in the parent and baby. As a result, mom or dad experiences loving, nurturing feelings which help with bonding. Mother's who breast feed also experience this release of oxytocin, while nursing their baby. In 2000, a study by Cullen, C and colleagues demonstrated that fathers that routinely used massage techniques with their babies experienced increased self-esteem as a parent. In addition, the babies greeted their dads with more eye contact, smiling, and vocalizing responses. Overall, the fathers were more expressive and demonstrated more enjoyment during play interactions with their infants.
4. Improved Communication
Since touch is our first form of communication, infant massage increases a parent's confidence to understand and respond appropriately to their child's needs. In turn, when a babies needs are met quickly, they grow up to become more secure and confident as an adult.
Infant massage is truly an amazing way to connect and nurture your brand new baby. I encourage you to give it a try!
Locate an infant massage class in your area.
Have you ever tried infant massage with your baby? If so, did you notice any benefits?