The Benefits of Baby Massage

Category: Newborns

Massage has loads of benefits for both you and your baby. MH speaks to the experts to find out what they are.

WORDS ANGEL DREWGUS

Parenting seems to have become ever more complicated, demanding and so open to scrutiny. It is wonderful to have a guide to our babies that encourages physical contact and stimulation. Baby massage is a way of bridging the gap between parents and children, and is to be recommended as an alternative way of encouraging a child’s development, and occasional healing, without resorting to high-tech toys and development. For the baby in your arms, there is no better way, nor better time, to encourage growth and development and calm mutual anxieties that could have arisen as a result of their birth or early infant experiences.

Your Gentle Touch
Just a simple nurturing touch can be the answer to making your baby smile. Before you start, ensure nails are short and trimmed, remove all jewellery and find a conducive environment that is warm, free of draughts, and accompanied by soft music. You may also talk or sing to your baby during the massage, recommends Kang Phaik Gaik, head parentcraft/lactation, Mount Alvernia Hospital. Parents and caregivers should attend baby massage classes to learn the proper techniques of massaging. Massage can be both stimulating and relaxing for babies. Studies have shown that downward strokes (e.g. from the shoulder to the hand) promote relaxation and would be good to practice prior to bedtime. On the other hand, massaging strokes directed upwards (e.g from the hand to the shoulder) may stimulate baby and would be more appropriate for play time.

Touch experiences are fundamental to the establishment of attachment bonds. Research studies have shown that massaging your child can have benefits, not only for the child but also for the person massaging the child.

According to Kang, some of the benefits include:

  • Promotes parent-infant bonding
  • Calms a fretful child and induces sleep by reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation
  • Releases tension, anxiety and irritability
  • Relieves colic and digestive problems
  • Contributes to healthy weight gain
  • Promotes emotional growth
  • Increases baby’s immune development
  • Increases general alertness

Parents are encouraged to gently massage their baby anytime after birth, says Kang. As early as possible if there are no medical conditions such as a hernia. If you’re in doubt, it’s always best to seek your doctor’s advice.

The Perfect Way to Bond
Massage helps parents and baby bond by making baby feel secure, comforted and loved. Touch is the first communication that a baby receives. Massages offer parents an opportunity to develop ease and intimacy with their babies. The elements of bonding are inherent in baby massages such as eye and skin contact, smiles, soothing sounds and loving communication, explains Patricia Dimney, nurse clinician, NUH Women’s Centre. By using infant massage, both infant and parents benefit from the experience.
    
Massaging your baby introduces a unique level of confidence and relaxation that is reflected in the health and nature of your child and your relationship. It is an antidote to an increasingly competitive way of life where stress plays a major part. For both parents and child, the benefits of baby massage are extensive. To develop the soothing caress of a mother and child to a quality of touch that includes baby massage is the most wonderful skill a parent can acquire.

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