Often when I mention that I teach Infant Massage, the response is something like, “Wow, lucky babies!” In truth, every human requires healthy, nurturing touch from birth—it is another form of nourishment, as important as the air we breathe. Infant massage is one way to ensure that your baby is getting enough nourishing touch that is so vital for their healthiest growth and development. Here are a few reasons to make massaging your baby a priority:
1) Life Doesn’t Always Go as Planned
When things don’t go as hoped and planned (as they often do), especially when it comes to feeding our babies, we often feel like we’ve failed. Each child is different—with my first, we breastfed exclusively until age 3 and I never pumped. With my second baby, we had latch issues and I went back to work at 6 weeks, pumped and supplemented with formula. Making peace with our personal journey of nourishing our babies is crucial for our own well-being as mommas. So whether or not things are going the way you thought they would with breastfeeding (or anything else in motherhood), you can nurture your relationship with your baby using loving, nurturing touch.
2) It is Good for Us as Parents
I know we’re all pressed for time and energy, but this is one practice that will not only benefit your baby, but you as well. The emotional and physical benefits of massaging our babies go both ways. Touch releases the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin calms the nervous system, increases empathy and trust, and counteracts the harmful effects of stress hormones like cortisol. In only 20 seconds of giving and receiving nurturing touch, levels of oxytocin begin to rise in both you and your baby. Dedicating 5-10 minutes of loving, nurturing touch is an investment in both you and your baby that goes a long way.
3) Massage Supports Your Baby’s Growing Brain and Body
Massage provides a safe, nurturing way to stimulate your baby’s brain during its most crucial developmental period. Massage helps to integrate the nervous system by stimulating the proprioceptors on the surface of the skin, which is essential for healthy sensory integration. A few simple massage strokes on the belly supports your baby’s developing digestive tract, improves tone, and relieves gas and constipation. Massage to the legs and arms normalizes muscle tone and improves circulation. Back massage supports a healthy spine and gives your baby a good dose of tummy time.
4) Helps You Feel Calm and Confident
Motherhood is often a time fraught with uncertainty and anxiety. There is so much information and so many decisions to navigate from the moment we conceive. Everyone benefits when we cultivate a sense of calm confidence about ourselves and our children. Infant massage encourages a healthy bond and pre-verbal communication between infants and caregivers, helping parents feel more confident and competent in caring for their children as they learn their baby’s cues.
5) Anyone Can Do It
I love teaching Infant Massage to parents and caregivers because it’s such a helpful tool that anyone can learn and use to support the healthiest development of their little ones. Simple massage strokes can be done with or without oil, on the skin or through clothing to lay the foundation of healthy emotional and physical development and strong bond with your baby.