|Estimated reading Time - 5 minutes|
Touching & holding is something most parents do naturally to comfort & soothe the baby. Historically, in many cultures across the world, the practice of massaging babies is an art passed down from generation to generation. Historians have found evidence of baby massage dating back over 3000 years, in regions as diverse as India, Africa, China, New Zealand & Egypt. A daily massage in many cultures is still considered a routine part of childcare, given to provide the nurturing touch & aid growth & development.
This old wisdom had almost disappeared in the modern industrial societies due to several reasons including time constraints, shift in parenting guidance & styles and social priorities.
However, backed by “new findings” and neuroscience, baby massage is now being recognized as a beneficial and significant practice in the western cultures.
Since the 1980s, numerous studies & research have been done in the field of baby massage & touch in the USA, UK & several European countries. Due to the positive findings, baby massage is becoming popular in all these countries. Infant massage is now emerging as ‘the’ must do activity and is helping thousands of parents’ bond with their babies and provide the best possible start in life both physically and emotionally.
Baby massage is an age-old tradition in India. Many of us may have been told that babies should be massaged daily. But let us pause and reflect, how and why is this beneficial for our babies.
How does a parent’s touch benefit the baby?
Of all the senses to develop, touch is the first and begins before the baby is born, prenatally as early as 8 weeks. In the first few months of life, touch is used more often than hearing, sight, or smell to learn about the environment & the physical world. Babies & young children are often kinesthetic & tactile learners - they wiggle, move, grab, feel, kick their legs, and learn through their bodies and their sense of touch. Touch aids in their overall growth & development - physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually.
Through this contact, newborns are able to learn about their world, bond with their caregivers, and communicate their needs and wants.
Studies show that lack of touch during the early years slows growth in infants. Babies who don’t receive appropriate human contact in their first days, weeks & months of life often suffer from health problems related to this deprivation.
Nurturing touch is a biological need of infants, stimulating & regulating their reflexes and bodily functions.
Baby Massage by Parents
Massage by parents provides the nurturing touch needed by babies to thrive. A gentle massage is a wonderful way to engage with, soothe as well as stimulate babies. When done respectfully, it also creates body awareness and establishes boundaries in the baby’s mind.
Researchers conclude that a daily routine in which the infant receives individualized, physical parental attention & affectionate touch is necessary for children to know that they are safe and protected, building trust between child and parent.
By continually & repeatedly providing nurturing touch, parents can facilitate their baby’s social, emotional, and physical development. Infants who experience more nurturing physical contact are less likely to be hostile, anxious, or emotionally distressed as adults.
Benefits for the Baby
A routine massage by parents can not only impact short-term development during infancy and early childhood, but also have long-term effects, suggesting the power of positive, gentle, responsive touch from birth.
On a physiological level, the benefits for the baby can include:
- Stimulation of the circulatory, digestive, hormonal, immune, lymphatic, respiratory & nervous systems
- Muscular development, tone, coordination and balance
- Motor skills development
- Improved digestion & weight gain
- Improved sleep patterns
- Reduced fussiness & crying
- Easing minor pains & discomforts associated with gas, colic, muscular tensions, teething, congestion
The emotional & psychological benefits for the baby can include:
- Bonding and attachment with the parents
- Feeling secure & loved
- Building trust & self-esteem
- Providing a blueprint for positive future social & attachment patterns
- Building capacity to develop positive qualities such as acceptance, empathy, respect
- Feeling relaxed & soothed
- Improved regulation of emotions, moods & energy
Loving massage by parents helps tremendously in a baby’s brain development as well. The cognitive benefits of baby massage include:
- Improved ability to learn, focus & memorize
- Sensory integration and body awareness
- Building of new neural pathways
- Release of neurotransmitters/hormones that affect brain development
- Development of pre-language, verbal/non-verbal communication
- Language development
Though not many parents may be aware, but massaging a baby benefits the parents too:
- Promotes bonding and attachment with the baby
- Improves ability to respond and respect baby cues
- Quality time with baby
- Encourages dads to get involved
- Improves parenting confidence & skills
- Promotes acceptance of self & baby
- Improves sleep
- Can stimulate lactation (prolactin)
- Decrease postpartum blues for mom
- Relaxes & destresses parents
- Regulates mood & energy
- Reduces isolation by fostering social interaction and support with other parents
Baby massage done respectfully & with love has underlying benefits for the entire family:
- Facilitates bonding by involving siblings & extended family
- Promotes respect, trust, acceptance & respectful touch in the family
- Relaxes home environment
- Facilitates open communication
- Reduces conflicts
- Improves sleep for the entire family
And how can this benefit the society at large?
Many issues in society are due to early childhood experiences & the quality of attachment & social patterns developed in the formative years. Thus, infant massage may have far-reaching & long-term benefits for our communities & society in the following ways:
- Increased respect, tolerance, and empathy
- Less abuse, bullying, violence, crime
- Reduced stress & stress-related issues like depression
- Regulated & Healthier people in society
Why Parents Must Massage Their Babies Themselves
Unfortunately, massage is not frequently practiced by parents because of time constraints, wrong advice or lack of confidence, knowledge & information.
For the following reasons, it is important that parents massage their babies themselves:
- Bonding, attachment, and communication with baby
- Safety & Hygiene (Babies have an immature immune system at birth, and hence exposure to outsiders should be limited for the first few months)
- Intent & energy (no one provides babies with the same positive intent & energy as parents)
- Observing & responding to baby cues, schedule & health (babies follow their own individual schedule & need the same to be observed/respected for healthy development)
- Improves parenting confidence (as parents interact with their babies during massage & learn about their cues, they develop an understanding of their baby’s requirements and are able to respond appropriately. Thus they feel more confident about their parenting skills)
- Able to help baby when baby is uncomfortable/distraught
The Keola Wellness Baby Massage Program
- Welcomes all families
- Promotes respect, trust, safety & wellbeing of babies & families
- Is accepting & is baby-led
- Promotes active participation by both parents
- Provides social opportunities, new friendships and peer support
- Reduces isolation
- Is flexible and adaptable to various situations
- Is well researched, knowledge based, yet simple
For more information or to learn Baby Massage, please reach us
IG: @keolawellness www.instagram.com/keolawellness
Contact number- 9773066557
Author- Jyoti Devjani, Founder – Keola Wellness
Address- Certified Infant Massage Instructor, Pediatric Massage Therapist, Developmental Massage Teacher, Prenatal Massage Therapist, Aromatherapist
Discount Code- BN10