Written by Charlotte Morgan www.sweetpeasbaby.co.uk
When discussing the benefits of baby massage, digestive issues and colic are usually the first to arise. It is true, baby massage is fantastic for aiding the digestive system and soothing colicky babies, but there are so many more benefits and it is important that they are not overlooked.
The bond between parent and child is the strongest in nature and acts as a lifelong template, moulding and shaping your child to ensure they build successful relationships in the future. While it is a very special and unconditional love, bonding is not always immediate and it is completely normal for it to take days, weeks or even months to nurture this special relationship.
Early positive interaction and touch are incredibly important for babies. Touch is their most developed sense at birth and through massage you can communicate love, security and trust to your baby immediately. During massage, parents use positive touch, eye contact, talking/singing and exchange of smells to help to develop their unique attachment and build a loving relationship.
Massaging your baby provides a period of mutual pleasure and focused one-to-one time for both parent and baby to enjoy which enables your baby to feel comfortable and trusting.
This focused time also gives parents the opportunity to observe their baby so they can start to recognise the subtle, non-verbal language they use, and develop their ability to listen to their baby. When parents can understand these cues, and respond to their needs in a positive way, their confidence will start to grow, which can feel very empowering.
When you massage your baby your body releases ‘feel good’ hormones which help you both to relax. Gentle massage is very calming and can help to reduce tension, restlessness and irritability, as well as promoting sleep – enabling babies to fall asleep faster, longer and more deeply.
When a baby is upset or tense, their sympathetic nervous system is activated, which releases stress hormones like adrenaline as a baby prepares for fight or flight. When massaging, cuddling or holding your baby you activate their parasympathetic system, which works against the sympathetic nervous system to restore relaxation by releasing restful hormones like oxytocin and endorphins.
As parents learn massage techniques it increases their ability to help relax their baby in times of stress or distress. Oxytocin has the power to soothe, relax and calm your baby, and even makes you feel more chemically attracted to them.
Baby massage stimulates and supports your baby’s physical, emotional and social development in several ways.
By boosting circulation, you will stimulate all the systems within their body, ensuring the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cells, tissues, fibres and organs, helping them to work more efficiently and strengthening muscles and bones.
The immune system is also strengthened by increased stimulation of the lymphatic system, which is responsible for fighting off infection and disease. Babies who are massaged regularly show more weight gain as they have better immune systems and are less likely to be sick.
When babies are born they have no control, co-ordination, emotional thought or awareness of their body. Because their skin is covered in nerve endings, every time they are massaged we are sending messages to their brain to help them understand where their limbs are and how to control them, therefore developing co-ordination, movement and body awareness.
Through stimulation of the skin, the process of myelination is also sped up, enhancing neurological and motor development. Tactile stimulation also improves sensory awareness through touch, eye contact, smell and sound, helping to teach babies about communication, speech and language.
As mentioned above, relief from the discomfort of digestive pain is the most commonly known benefit of baby massage, and massaging the liver and abdomen increases bowel movement by aiding the digestion and excretion of waste. However, massage can also be used for the relief of discomfort associated with teething, colds, congestion and dry skin.
By using special massage techniques around the eyes, cheeks, nose and chest, the pain associated with teething, colds and congestion can all be relieved, and by using nutritious oils during massage the condition of the skin can be improved as you remove dead skin cells, stimulate the sebaceous glands, open pores and lubricate the skin. Stimulation of the skin through massage also increases the production of endorphins which helps to reduce pain and tension.
The benefits of baby massage are so varied and it is a very natural, relaxing and enjoyable way to spend one-to-one time with your baby. Once the techniques have been learnt massage is a fantastic way to connect with your baby at any point in the day, as well as offering relief when needed and encouraging development. I would urge anyone to give it a try!
Charlotte Morgan is the founder of Sweet Pea’s Baby Massage,
a local company who teach baby massage as weekly, one-to-one
or groups at home classes.
Please visit www.sweetpeasbaby.co.uk
for more information or to book online today.