The benefits of your baby having a massage
Just as being massaged during pregnancy can have positive physical and mental benefits for expectant mothers, you and your baby can also benefit from this activity after the baby has been born.
Baby massage can have many benefits for both mother and baby, helping you to bond through touch, to ease constipation, to aid sleep, and to increase relaxation in both mother and baby. It can also be a great communication tool for you both.
Touching is how babies communicate and learn the world around them, when they are first born. Before they can talk, they feel, often with their mouth. That’s one of the reasons why babies like to put everything in their mouth. We soothe newborn babies through touch, stroking their back, tickling them lightly, and holding them closely. Massaging your baby is an extension of this comforting touch.
You can start the practice from birth, although it is advisable to wait until premature babies reach their due date before massaging starts. You can do it at home in the early days, and baby classes often start at around 6 weeks old. By joining group classes, you can also meet other new parents and their babies, which is a great way to socialise with parents and find people to talk to, who are in a similar situation to you.
If your baby doesn’t enjoy it straight away, don’t give up. You can keep trying by creating different settings, perhaps using some calming music or low lighting, and trying different oils and creams.
This can help to create space that will facilitate relaxation, which is one of the biggest benefits of baby massages.
The soothing moves encourage the release of oxytocin, a ‘feel-good’ hormone that makes your baby and you relax. It can be beneficial if you’re struggling to breastfeed, by helping both mother and baby feel calmer.
The relaxation can also help your baby to sleep, which is something that we all crave during the first months of becoming a parent. Melatonin is also released during the massaging movements, which promotes better sleeping. A study by the University of Warwick in 2006 found that infants aged 6 months or under got better sleep after being massaged.
Teaching you partner or grandparents how to perform baby massage can also help them to bond with the baby, providing a time where they can spend some one-to-one time with the baby. The repetitive motions accompanied by soft soothing noises and sounds can help your baby to recognise voices and then faces.
There are some medical ailments common to young babies that can be eased through massaging certain areas of the body. Constipation can be eased through slow, light circular movements around the abdomen. This can make the baby more comfortable and make it easier to go to the toilet.
Studies have shown that continuing to massage your child, as they become a toddler and then move into older childhood, can be beneficial in helping them to develop their relationships with you and other people.
Lucy Mayhew runs a baby massage group every Monday click here for more details.