Infant massage has been around for centuries but it has only been in the last few decades that it has become popular in western society. It can be highly beneficial to infants for several reasons and nowadays many parents are learning this useful art.
Parents who regularly give infant massages report many positive effects. Some of the benefits include:
• Relaxation – babies have stress just like adults do and using the massage techniques to relax the baby can be soothing. It can be soothing not only for the infant but for the parents as well.
• Aids digestion – Many babies have colic or gas problems and massage will help alleviate the pains associated with gas, aiding the digestion process.
• Brings parent and child closer – Touching and stroking the child is a loving way to bond together. The baby will have a sense of being nurtured while the parent cares for the child.
• Helps with development – the loving touch found with massage helps promote intellectual and motor skills growth. Studies show it also may help with enhancing the immune system
• Increases non verbal communication – Before infants can communicate verbally, they have to communicate with non verbal cues. When you regularly massage, you become attuned to the baby’s way of communicating which will translate into all other aspects of the day.
• Promotes sleep – Fussy babies who are not sleeping through the night can benefit from infant massage. The relaxation techniques can help the infant sleep longer and have a more restful sleep. Parents who employ this technique find that infants start sleeping longer and eventually through the night.
Parents and caregivers who are interested in learning the techniques can learn them through several ways. Many hospitals have parenting classes to help new parents adapt to a new baby. Check with your local hospital system to see if they offer infant massage classes. In addition, holistic centers often offer such classes. Three are also websites and how to videos available on the Internet that can step you through the basics of the techniques.
The best time to give infant massage is when the baby is alert but calm. Do not do it when the baby is exceptionally sleepy or immediately after feeding. Lay a towel down on the floor and have the infant rest on the towel between your legs. Using baby oil that the baby is not sensitive to, start with a long slow stroke from head to toe. Then you can progress onto other body parts.
Concentrate on each body type, one at a time. Use gentle strokes and caresses as well as light pressure. Use techniques such as long strokes, circular massaging and walking your fingers up and down the body. If the baby starts fussing or squirming pause and move on to another body part or stop it all together. This should be relaxing and you should not force it. It is recommended that infant massage be done daily for optimum results.