02 Jan How baby massage helps your baby’s development
In many cultures infant massage has been around for thousands of years, yet here in the UK it has only become popular in the last 11 or 12 years. Infant massage is simple, fun and can be done almost anywhere and has a host of emotional and physical benefits for both parents and babies, not forgetting grandparents and siblings.
And isn’t this what we want for our children, to give them the best start possible?
There are a many physiological benefits for baby:
- strengthening the digestive system,
- alleviating the discomfort of colic,
- wind and constipation, helping to strengthen the immune system,
- improving skin condition, alleviating nasal congestion and teething pain.
The mummies in my baby massage classes report that their babies find massage so soothing they may even fall asleep immediately afterwards!
If massage is introduced as part of the baby’s bed-time routine it can help to release tension in baby and mother. It improves the baby’s circulation, deepens and regulates the breathing and increases the levels of oxygen in the bloodstream; which leads to deeper sleep and is great for fussy babies!
In addition, containment holding and gentle massage can help with brain development and weight gain in premature babies.
And it makes them happy!
A simple massage routine can stimulate the ‘happy’ hormones and reduces the damaging effects of the stress hormone, Cortisol.
This ensures that babies have positive experiences, which helps with their emotional development.
In the first two years of a child’s life, the emotional part of the brain is developing and positive experiences, such as massage can help the infant, when they mature, to respond to life situations more positively instead of reacting defensively. Massage also helps the newborn baby adapt to its new environment; the transition from the cosy womb to the outside world, in turn enhancing the baby’s feelings of being loved, respected and secure.
And what about you, mum?
Mums can also benefit on a physical level. A mother’s breast milk can be stimulated by massaging her baby and Oxytocin, the hormone that controls feelings of well-being and the nurturing instinct, is much higher when a mother has massaged her baby.
The benefits are not just limited to the mother; studies have shown that fathers that massage their babies regularly each night before bed shows they interact much better with their babies than fathers that do not. On the whole infant massage can help parents feel confident about handling a tiny newborn. Siblings can get in on the act too. Sibling rivalry can be alleviated by allowing an older brother or sister to help with the massage, even if it’s just holding the oil bottle to begin with or copying the massage on their teddy!
Infant massage is a highly effective way of enhancing parent-infant interaction which is beneficial for both parents and babies.
Massaging a baby from an early age is one of the most important forms of communication a new mother can have with her baby.
By learning her baby’s non-verbal cues and therefore how her baby is communicating, infant massage can help a mother feel close to her baby, thus developing a close bond. A strong attachment to a parent can develop a sense of security in a baby and the child is more likely to grow up more self-assured and self-confident.
Learning to communicate with her baby can be an extremely invaluable skill for a mother, especially if she is suffering from postnatal illness (PNI). This is a serious problem which can have serious implications on a child’s development. Very often mothers who are suffering from PNI avoid interacting and making eye contact and this unfortunately, can be the case with their own child. Infant massage has shown to help with mothers suffering from PNI.
Infant massage also offers an opportunity for early play, including introducing stimulating music and nursery rhymes into the routine. Studies show that the use of nursery rhymes can be a wonderful learning tool and can even enhance brain development and early language skills for the child.
So, I guess we now know just how good it is for YOU and your BABY.