There is research evidence that shows baby massage is beneficial. The New Zealand Chapter of the International Association of Infant Massage describe baby massage benefits under four categories – interaction, stimulation, relief and relaxation.
- Interaction – respectful interaction supports the bonding and attachment process between parents and baby and can help parents understand the baby’s body language and cues.
- Stimulation – research shows massage benefits blood circulation, the digestive system, the immune system, supports myelination of the nervous system. Myelin is a substance that surrounds nerve cells and helps with the development of motor function (crawling/walking), sensory function (hearing, seeing) and cognition (brain development – learning), and increased weight gain.
- Relief – can help relieve wind and colic, constipation, teething discomfort, stress.
- Relaxation – relieves stress by stimulating higher levels of mood hormones (such as oxytocin) and reducing the levels of stress hormones. It can improve sleep patterns.
Massaging your baby – There are no set guidelines about when baby massage can be started. Massage can be too stimulating for newborn babies so the baby’s reaction to the massage should be observed carefully. Massage should be a calming, happy and pleasant experience for the baby – and the parents. A massage in a warm room after a bath can work well.
Massage for a preterm baby – research has found that massage is beneficial for preterm babies. Recommendations include using a firm touch rather than a light touch (which can be annoying and ticklish), massaging different parts of the body in the same order every time, and watching the baby’s reaction to the touch. If the baby is obviously not enjoying the massage – stop and calm the baby by rocking gently and holding close. Restart the massage but observe the baby’s response. For more information – https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/premature-babies/connecting-communicating/touch-massage-in-the-nicu
Massage oils – there are lots of baby massage oils available and some are blends of various oils. Plant-based, cold-pressed, unperfumed oils are recommended for baby massage and sweet almond oil, or calendula are good options. Organic oils are available.