Infant Massage: Is It Necessary?
You know how they say skin-to-skin contact is always good for babies? It is especially helpful for premature babies. If just being in contact and getting held can be so beneficial to babies, we can consider giving them a full-body massage to be soothing as well.
Did you know that you can massage your infant? Babies look quite fragile, and many people are afraid of touching or moving them around unnecessarily. So, a lot of times they end up being held in one position, for extended periods of time. This is not good for their circulation, and the flexibility of their muscles. Contrary to what you may think, Infant massage is very possible. It is quite advisable, too. Apart from relaxing the baby, there are other advantages to infant and baby massage therapy. Infant massage is a way of relaxing these stiff muscles for your baby. Aside from being a gentle way to nurture your precious baby, it could also be one way of bonding with him.
Infant massage is a complementary and alternative type of treatment or therapy that involves rubbing and stroking a baby using gentle pressure. This type of therapy on infants is being practiced all over the world, including the Western countries. Studies have been made to show its positive effects on improving weight gain and bone density, reducing cortisol, contributing to cognitive and physical development as the baby grows.
The use of infant massage was taught by Ayurvedic medicine, which began in ancient India. It was also used during the Qing dynasty in China. In South America the practice of massaging infants began in the late 1970s. They use infant massage as means to care for infants in poor areas of the country who received limited or no neonatal care.
In modern days, infant massage is part of traditional infant care in South Asia and African countries. In the West, infant massage is being increasingly used for pre-term infants in neonatal intensive care units to help the infant receive some tactile stimulation amidst a stressful environment.
Infant massage has been in existence for a long time, it was attached to helping children that have experienced trauma and those that were disabled or had certain birth defects that hampered with their growth in one way or another. It was observed that there was a significant improvement in the growth and development of such babies as compared to those that were not given such therapy.
Therefore, while it may not be an absolute must for baby development, its benefits are numerous and doing it will make a significant difference in the rate of growth of one’s baby and their emotional well being, as well.
What are the benefits of infant and baby massage therapy?
- It helps in digestion and relief of gas. Babies with gas in their stomach can be quite irritable, and by gently massaging them, you will aid in the digest. The massage therapy also has a positive effect on their stress hormones as they attain a feeling of well-being that makes them pleasant to handle.
- It aids in the healthy development of the baby by accelerating weight gain and boosting the immunity of the baby as well as promoting neurological development. Compare this to the hair growth tip that advises us to massage the scalp to promote hair growth. The same concept works when you massage your baby as their muscle growth is encouraged.
- It’s a great way to spend quality time with your baby as it promotes bonding. When a baby is being massaged it conveys a message of love to them, and they feel nurtured. You will find that affectionate and rhythmic touch can become a powerful way of communicating love between babies and parents. If the parent combines infant massage with soothing words and smiles, the baby feels secure.
- Infant massage can have a payoff for the parents as well. In handling newborns, it is quite easy to lose one’s ground and feel helpless when things get a bit shaky. When you are giving your baby a gentle massage, you will find that it will make you feel you are in control. Gently rubbing down your baby can also help you understand and read your baby’s cues and will help you respond better to each of his needs.
- Massage therapy relaxes the baby’s body and helps to promote healthy sleeping patterns and reduces any irritability because the baby is relaxed and in a relaxed state of mind.
Simple baby massage technique
Performing massage therapy on your baby is both a simple and enjoyable task. Each therapy should not take more than 10 to 15 minutes. Baby massage should be done forty five minutes after feeding the baby, or right after you have given the baby a bath as you are preparing him/her for a nap. You may try starting after you have changed his diaper or start a bathtime ritual that will include the massage.
Ensure that you do the massage in a calm place that is warm and free of any noisy distractions. The baby should be placed on a flat comfortable surface and should be lying on his back, facing up on a soft towel or blanket. You may use a head pillow for more support and comfort. The massage surface should be positioned in such a way that you can comfortably massage your baby and maintain eye contact with them without straining. In addition, it should be secure, whereby there is no chance of the baby falling over accidentally.
After you have created a calm atmosphere, you may begin by stripping your baby of his clothes and tell him it’s baby massage time. Hold your baby's hands and gently apply rubbing motions on his palms with the use of your thumbs. Look at your baby while you do so to make him tune in to you. After a few times of rubbing his hands, you may start with massaging your baby's legs then slowly work your way up his body. In order to lessen the friction between your skin and your baby’s skin, you may opt to use hypoallergenic baby oil, as you gently knead and stroke your baby on each part of the body. Ensure that you flex the baby’s arms and legs to get rid of any stiffness. Do this when the baby is lying on their stomach and when they are lying on their back.During the massage, take time to communicate with your baby using soothing sounds. Once you are finished, dress the baby in appropriate clothing and rock them for a few minutes before letting them be.
Doing this often will make a significant difference in your relationship with the baby, and in the rate of their growth and general well being.
Types of massages that you can give to your baby
This massage involves gently and firmly wrapping your hands around your baby’s leg and gliding your hands in a downward motion from your baby’s thigh to his ankle. You may repeat this a few times before doing the same thing on the other leg. Remember that your grip should be firm but gentle.
This form of massage involves placing your hands over the area of the navel of your baby. With your fingertips, rub the tummy of your baby in a clockwise and circular motion. Your pressure should be gentle yet firm.
This massage involves placing the arm of your baby between your hands before gently rolling in a downward motion. The gentle and firm rolling should start from his shoulder and end at his wrist. Repeat this for about 2 to 3 times before massaging the other arm.
When giving your baby a neck massage, be sure to hold and support his head and upper body with one hand. The thumb of your other hand should be pressed lightly against one side of his neck, with the first two fingers of the same hand placed on the other side. In a circular motion, gently rub the neck of your baby with your fingertips.
Before doing the colic-relief massage, perform the tummy massage on your baby first. After the tummy massage, gently bend his knees upward, to the direction of his tummy. Hold this position for about 30 seconds and then release. After repeating this a few times, gently glide the edge of your hand from your baby’s belly button in a downward motion. Do the gentle gliding in a rhythmic pattern. This should help release gas from your baby.
How does infant massage work?
Infant massage works by stimulating the central nervous system of your baby. When the central nervous system or the CNS is stimulated, a chain reaction is set off. The chain reactions signal the brain to produce more serotonin, which is also known as the feel-good hormone, and to produce less cortisol, which is the hormone secreted when the body system is in distress. As a result of all these reactions, the heart rate and breathing of your baby slows down. Your baby is left feeling more relaxed.
Things to keep in mind about giving your baby a massage:
- Before beginning the therapy, remember to take off any jewelry and other accessories that may get in the way of your skin-to-skin contact with your baby during the massage. Hard and sharp accessories may hurt your baby’s sensitive skin.
- Avoid massaging your baby when he is fussy. An already fussy baby may only become overstimulated and giving him a massage may only make him more unhappy. Start massaging your baby when he is quiet but alert. Be familiar with your baby’s cues and moods. A massage might be a good idea if he seems to be calm and is able to maintain a steady gaze. If he grows stiff in your arms or tries to turn his head away from you when you start massaging him, stop the therapy.
- Waiting at least 45 minutes after a feeding before starting the massage therapy of your baby is important. If you massage your baby too soon after his feeding, your baby might end up vomitting.
- Giving your baby a massage has no limit. When and how often you want to give him one will totally depend on you and how receptive your baby is to the massage sessions. A daily massage may do your newborn a lot of good. You may make these infant massages part of his bedtime routine in order to provide him a calming sleep.
- Should you want to use oil when giving your baby his infant massage, choose an oil that is odorless and edible. The oil that you will use should be safe in case some of the oil gets in your baby’s mouth. It is also best to choose a hypoallergenic oil. If your baby is known to have allergies or sensitive skin, test the oil against his skin first, before completely applying it for the massage. Do the test by applying a small of oil to an area of your baby’s skin and observe for any reactions after a few minutes.
Can babies who are suffering from health problems receive infant massages?
Always consult your baby’s doctor before giving your baby an infant massage if he has health issues. Always rely on a doctor to determine whether an infant massage can be helpful or will not aggravate any existing medical condition. Additionally, an infant massage should only be a complementary treatment. Do not completely rely on infant massage and do not disregard a doctor’s medical opinion on how to manage your baby’s health condition.
Is infant massage safe?
According to reviews of the literature, giving a full term or a preterm infant an infant massage therapy does not have any significant risks for any adverse events. Only one aspect of infant massage may have a disagreeable effect on an infant, and that is the use of certain oils, which may actually be eliminated from the whole treatment. One study has found that oils such as olive oil or mustard oil may have adverse effects on a baby’s skin. These oils were found to affect the skin’s barrier function by compromising its integrity and permeability.
Infant massage is safe when done with due care and precaution. Once one has gotten the hang of infant massage, parents and babies alike will enjoy its numerous benefits.