Updated: Aug 2
By Taylor Paganini, LMT
Did you know that infant massage has been used in many cultures around the world for the last thousands of years? In South Asia, mothers perform daily infant massage in the belief that it will instill fearlessness, harden bone structure and enhance movement and limb coordination. In Nigeria, mothers massage their infants in the belief that it will promote their health and well-being. And in India massage is used from birth and it is tradition that older generations massage younger ones. Until only recently has the western world rediscovered and adapted itself to the real benefits of infant massage.
What are the benefits of Infant Massage?
For people who are new to the concept of infant/baby massage and question its validity, they should feel rest-assured that an infant massage is simply a structured guide in bonding with your child. Just as breastfeeding, cuddling, bathing and playtime with your baby are all different occasions for touch, so too is an infant massage. It is very important in the early stages of life to first achieve the basic levels of needs such as touch, belonging and security. These are fundamental elements for a baby. An infant massage creates the setting for a strong, safe connection between mother or father and child. But aside from the development of basic intimate and emotional needs, infant massage has numerous functional and health benefits for the baby. Here are some of those benefits:
Improves general well being
Improves overall function of digestion such as congestion, gas and colic
Helps to normalize muscle tone
Enhances immune system function
Improves midline orientation
Helps to strengthen sensory and body awareness
Enhances neurological development
Helps baby and child to sleep deeper and more soundly
Helps increase oxygen and nutrient flow to cells
Helps to improve pain management such as discomfort from teething
Reduces levels of cortisol which is the stress hormone
Promotes relaxation which helps the baby self-regulate which reduces crying
Enhances the release of hormones, which can stimulate weight gain
Stimulates all of the physiological systems; massage sparks the neurons in their brains to grow and branch out to encompass other neurons
Provides all of the essential indicators of intimate parent-infant bonding and attachment such as eye to eye contact, touch, voice, smell, movement and thermal regulation.
Parents can sing or talk with your baby while performing the massage. Use close up eye contact so that your child can view your mouth movements while forming words. Studies have shown that babies who are given massages while the parent communicates at close range tend to form words at a much earlier stage of development.
Aside from the many great benefits that it has for the baby itself, infant massage is not just for them. It is also very beneficial to the mother and/or father as well. Here are also a number of parental benefits to hopefully help encourage new parents to use these techniques at home:
Encourages pre-verbal communication between caregiver and infant
Helps parents feel more confident and competent in caring for their infant
Provides parents with one-on-one quiet time or interactive play with their infant
Increases caregivers' self-esteem by reinforcing and enhancing their skills as caregivers
Gives parents the tools for understanding their infant’s unique rhythms and patterns
Teaches parents how to read their infant’s cues and recognize their states of awareness
Helps working parents or caregivers who are separated from their infant for long periods of time to bond with their infant
Gives parents a special way to interact with their children who may be hospitalized; helps parents feel a greater part of the healing process
Helps parents to unwind and relax
Provides a positive way for fathers to interact with their infant
Many emotions come with being a new or expecting parent. Anxiety, excitement, nervousness, joy, and fear are all typical of welcoming a new life into the world. Early nurturing contact between you and your infant is one of the earliest stimuli that you can provide.
How can you learn to perform an infant massage?
Here are some quick and simple tips in order to give your baby the most beneficial massage. First, always remember to keep your baby warm throughout the entire massage. The massage ideally lasts 25 to 30 minutes. Obviously the massage time will be determined by the contentment of the baby and the time available to you. It consists of various strokes over the whole body, including the abdomen and face. Ideally you will want the baby to be undressed but you may also perform strokes over their clothes if need be. The techniques used are easy to learn and can be taught by one of our trained therapists, Taylor Paganini, here at Washington Park Chiropractic. If interested, schedule a 30 minute infant massage session for you to not only learn how to perform on your own at home but to also see your little one light up during its first massage!
“Touch is the first language we speak.”-Stephen Gaskin
Taylor Paganini L.M.T, O.T is certified in Myofascial Release Technique, Trigger Point Therapy, AMMA, and Prenatal massage. Also certified in flame Cupping. Her techniques are to help unblock energy in the body and bring better mobility and functionality to the muscular and nervous systems in order to reconnect the mind/body experience.