Cultures all over the world have used massage as part of baby care for hundreds of years, and research shows it to be very beneficial.
Massaging your little one enables you to learn about and respond to the infant's body language, and is also a wonderful way to create a sense of safety and security by showing that he or she is loved and cared for.
But the relaxing activity does more than foster a close and confident mother-infant relationship. It can provide relief from colic, wind, and constipation, too.
You may wonder if babies really need massage to relax. The answer is yes, because not all infants know how to rest. Just like us, they can get stressed, in addition to being fussy, disorganised, crying a great deal and having poor sleeping habits. Massage can alleviate all these behaviours.
There is no set way to massage your baby. Provided you know how to do it safely, you and your youngster will discover what's best for you both.
You should keep in mind, however, that massage is something to do with, rather than to, your baby.
Benefits for the child:
- Smooth the transition from the womb to the world
- Introduce baby to his or her first language: touch
- Create a feeling of being loved, respected and secure
- Teach positive, loving touch
- Develop body, mind, awareness and coordination
- Help regulate and strengthen baby's digestive and respiratory systems and stimulate circulatory and nervous systems
- Reduce 'fussiness' and improve quality of sleep
- Enhance skin condition
Advantages for parents:
- Better understand baby's non-verbal communication
- Enhance parental confidence and competence
- Help with postnatal depression
- Promote lactation in breastfeeding mums (through stimulation of hormones)
- Boost the nurturing instinct (through stimulation of hormone oxytocin)
Certified Infant Massage Instructors (CIMI), trained with the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), teach courses taught over a number of weeks to give both the parent and baby time to learn and become accustomed to massage.
Each week, the class focuses on a new part of the body but also repeats previous demonstrations for reinforcement.
The strokes and styles of infant massage are easier to grasp when demonstrated by experienced instructors. Some skills and topics covered are pressure, rate, rhythm, length of massage, respect and bonding.
Joanna Peñaranda is a Certified Infant Massage Instructor with the IAIM and an experienced holistic pregnancy massage therapist. She practices in London and can deliver infant massages privately or in small groups. Email her on firstname.lastname@example.org.