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Did you know that your baby begins working on their sense of touch before they are even born? Babies learn about movement and what touch feels like while still inside their mother. All those stretches and kicks are helping your little one learn how to move their body, and when they encounter resistance (namely kicking you) they strengthen these muscles and movements. Once they are born, they continue to learn through their experiences with touch. At a very young age, this is one of their stronger senses which they heavily rely on.
Infant massage is a great way to continue to stimulate your baby’s sense of touch as well as provide a positive bonding experience. Massaging your baby helps to develop a trusting relationship and infant massage can promote many different outcomes: relaxing, energizing and stimulating.
So let’s talk about bonding! While you perform baby massage, you have a concentrated time that is shared between the two of you. You have the ability to focus directly on your child and communicate with your child. And guess what? Your baby is learning how to focus and communicate with you at the same time! Studies have also shown that massaging your baby can reduce cortisol, a stress hormone, and at the same time improve dopamine and serotonin, which are the hormones associated with feeling good. Caregivers, in turn, will also replace their own stress with a more positive mental state. It’s a win-win!
Babies also experience physical side effects from infant massage. Some effects your baby may experience from massage techniques are improved circulation, improved digestion including improving constipation, improved coordination and improved sleep. That’s right, improved sleep–that means you have improved sleep, too! Massage can help with issues such as gas and colic. It can also be useful with teething. All of these areas of your baby’s life that sometimes seem so hard to help can be helped with infant massage. Knowing that there is something you are able to do to improve your baby’s discomfort can make those hard times so much easier. Your hands will be the comfort and relief that your baby experiences.
Another great thing about baby massage is that anyone can do it. Any loving caregiver can engage in this opportunity to bond and support your baby’s development. It’s a great way to help get involved as well as provide your baby with a family of loving providers who make a positive impact. And, there are a lot of opportunities to learn the right ways to perform infant massage.
So where do you start? Taking a class is a great way to start the process. There are classes within the community that teach methods of infant massage. These are hosted at different health care organizations as well as in public forums such as at the library or community outreach center. You can look online and there are some great reference sites that give a good start to some basic techniques. Remember, your touch has a great impact, so you want to be doing the right techniques to achieve the right outcomes. Just think, are my hands encouraging sleep before bed or am I waking my baby up to prepare for an exciting all-nighter?
A few good pointers to remember … the environment should be helpful to making sure that you and baby can connect. Lower the lights, soft music or limited noise and a comfortable surface will help to set the right tone for the massage. Your hands are powerful and the amount of pressure you use is important. It’s also important to think about what kind of oil you may want to add. The oil should be edible and unscented and definitely needs to be baby safe. Remember that your baby puts a lot of body parts into their mouth, so you want to keep them safe.
Another great thing about infant massage is that it doesn’t need to stop as your little one grows. Your child’s needs may change as they get older, but they continue to need you and need your positive touch. Massage for children can help with calming behaviors and anxiousness, soothing growing pains and promoting a healthy long-term relationship.
Infant massage really is an amazing way to feel connected to your child as they grow, empowers you to be able to provide healing, health-promoting change and allows your child to know who they can always safely turn to.
By: Elizabeth Waerzeggers, MPT
Elizabeth is a pediatric physical therapist who’s been working with Prevea Therapy and HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital since 2002. She is a wife and mother of three with a passion for working with children and helping them find their wings.
Great information! I need to find more information about the use of massage for my high strung toddler! Any suggestions on where to begin my search? I can’t wait to find some classes in my area to find out more about what you brought up! Thanks!
Hi Stephanie–Sorry for the delayed response, but I wanted to let you know that you could could contact Prevea Therapy for Pediatrics at (920) 272-3380 to find out about possible classes, etc for massage for your toddler. 🙂
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