Do babies benefit from massages?

Baby massageModern parenting lessons for would-be parents in a maternity hospital often include a session on massaging for their new-born. Why is massaging for a new-born so important?

Modern research has shown that frequent skin-to-skin touch between mom and baby or dad and baby can benefit both parties. They can learn to communicate without using words. New parents can bond better with their new family member when they practice holding their new baby to their unclothed chest. New babies always smell so good and feel so soft. Babies receive real benefit from feeling your warm skin and hearing the reassuring sound of your heartbeat. Infant massage helps babies to grow and develop better. There has been some exciting research done in the area of touch and it’s connection to proper growth.

Touch stimulates growth-promoting hormones and increases the enzymes that make the cells of the vital organs. Premature babies who are touched and held show more weight gain then those who are left in incubators receiving little human touch or stimulation. In some eastern cultures, young mothers are reprimanded if they do not give their babies massages every day, so revered is the practice of infant massage.

Touch is good for your body and for your brain. Studies have been conducted that show that those who received plenty of human touch during infancy display enhanced neurological development. Researchers have drawn a connection between touch and the growth hormone “myelin” – which is the insulating material that surrounds nerves. This material makes nerve impulses move faster.

Touch has also been shown to improve digestion. When babies are touched often they secret more digestive hormones allowing for better digestion. Babies who have colic may benefit from a stomach massage to calm a irritated colon.

Baby massage can promote better sleeping patterns and lead to less fussiness and fickleness during the day. Most babies who fuss and cry a lot may scare off adults and lead to being picked up and cuddled less often. Adults need to understand that touch to babies can soothe them and bring about a more calm disposition. The same thing happens when an adult is upset and someone reaches out and touches your arm, or gives you a quick squeeze. That instant touch is felt, you feel an immense relief, a connection that says, “s(he) cares about me”. The fussy baby feels the same sense of relief over someone caring about them.

Baby massage teaches a baby about their body parts. They can learn which parts are sensitive and which parts being touched can relax them. Massage teaches a baby that they have self-worth and are of value to those around them.

Massage can especially help when he parent and infant have had a slow start in the bonding department due to the parent being absent, ill or otherwise unable to care for or be with the infant during the first hours or days of life. Massage can also help when the baby has been separated from mom or dad due to the infant being in the hospital or NICU unit due to medical complications or early birth.

Infant massage can help the giver and the baby to reconnect after being away from each other on a daily basis too. Like when the mom or dad works and then returns home. A daily massage upon return can help the two reconnect and relieve tension for both of them.

Massage can help lessen the fears of handling a new baby for the inexperienced parent or caregiver. Touch helps to get both of you in tuned to each other. Babies learn to respond to different strokes and they will soon learn to recognize daddy’s touch from mommy’s touch.

Because a new born baby is so small and vulnerable, it is always advised that new parents take lessons on how to provide massages for babies. Massaging for babies is different from adults on the level of strength used, the sensitivity of the baby to touch and the correct parts of the body that is beneficial for the baby. So, make sure you learn and understand all these before you start massaging your baby!

Most maternity hospitals will offer lessons on massaging for babies. If not, there are a number of good books on this subject. You may want to google Amazon Online to get a good instruction book on this subject.


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