A lot of us think of baby massage as being a new phenomenon as it has only been popular in the Western world in recent times and some may even think of it as a bit ‘hippy dippy’ and just for earth mummas! However, evidence of baby massage has been found in India, Africa and Asia dating back 3000 years and it has been passed down from generation to generation as a routine and everyday part of normal baby care. In the West, we are just beginning to discover the benefits of baby massage for both babies and their caregivers.
Touch is a baby’s first language and spending time on mindful massage with your baby can help you get to know them, understand their cues and how they communicate and increase your confidence in parenting your child. Baby Massage is an extension of a parent’s natural instinct to nurture, care for and soothe their baby.
Further to this, interestingly, studies have shown that routine positive touch including massage has much deeper benefits for both parents and babies. Babies cannot communicate through speech and so rely on touch to understand and experience their care giver’s love. Touch develops a baby’s first emotional bonds with their parents or care givers and this forms a solid basis for future emotional and intellectual development. Baby massage also has links to improved physiological, cognitive and social development.
Whilst some of these benefits are long term, massaging your baby has several more immediate benefits such as:
- Aiding digestion and reducing wind and constipation
- Relieving symptoms of colic
- Enhancing your baby’s body awareness
- Boosting their immune system
- Calming and relaxing for both parent and baby
As well as all of these amazing benefits, baby massage has links to improved baby sleep, which will be music to many parents’ ears!
Massage stimulates your baby’s central nervous system and triggers the production of serotonin – the feel-good hormone. Serotonin is responsible for your overall sense of wellbeing but not only that, it is also responsible for healthy digestion, another useful benefit for babies! The increase in serotonin results in your baby feeling calmer and more relaxed which in turn helps them to sleep.
Research also shows that regular massage can help to get your baby’s circadian rhythms on track. Circadian rhythms are 24hr cycles that form your bodies internal clock, and when they are properly aligned they can promote consistent and restorative sleep. Babies that are massaged are found to have higher levels of melatonin in their body – the sleep hormone.
Thus, incorporating a massage into your baby’s bedtime routine, not only gives you a lovely calming time to bond, but it can help them fall asleep, stay asleep for longer and have better quality sleep.
I’m a baby and toddler sleep consultant specialising in designing gentle sleep training programmes for babies and toddlers.
By Karen Sanderson-Moss of Tiger Stripes Birth & Baby. FEDANT accredited Antenatal Teacher & Baby Class Teacher
I’m a baby and toddler sleep consultant specialising in designing gentle sleep training programmes for babies and toddlers. I work with clients on a one to one basis and I also have a series of age-specific online courses for you to implement at your own pace.