21 Jun Benefits of Infant Massage
Carolina Pediatric Therapy is now offering an evidence-based infant massage course where parents can learn a useful skill that has many wonderful benefits for their child. The Infant massage techniques taught stem from ancient practices and traditions while also incorporating new research on how we know an infant develops. One of my favorite things about infant massage is that it doesn’t require any fancy equipment or special tools other than our hands and natural sunflower oil, making it accessible for every parent and their child.
Relaxation is probably one of the first things you think of when you think about massage. The gentle strokes used during the massage routine help to provide a sense of loving touch to your infant that lets them know they are safe and cared for. Infants spend 9 months in the womb and when they are born, they continue to crave that sense of security that the womb provided. Just like swaddling and kangaroo care, infant massage is a way to incorporate your touch to help your child regulate their behavioral state. This then allows infants to be in their best learning state for brain development. Infants that received massage for just 5 consecutive days showed less stress signs compared to control groups. You may also be surprised to hear that infant massage has relaxation benefits to the person that is giving the massage. Mothers experiencing postpartum depression may find many benefits from participating in an infant massage class. Parents that massaged their infants tested lower on depressed mood and anxiety scales following one session compared to control groups. Infant massage has also been shown to improve infant sleep immediately following massage and it positively impacts the long-term quality of sleep in infants.
Attachment is one of those parenting buzzwords that many of us have heard, but may be unclear of what it actually means. Attachment, or bonding, is the process by which an infant forms a secure sense of safety with a parent, which enables the child to self-regulate his or her behavior. This sense of attachment is critical because it creates a framework for healthy emotional development later in life. Bonding is increased by eye contact, skin-to skin contact, and hearing a parent’s voice. Infant massage provides all of these essential elements that help an infant form this special bond with a parent. Notice that I said parent – both mothers and fathers can help foster this secure attachment, which is why all parents are encouraged to participate in massage. It was previously believed that there was a critical window for attachment to occur. While it is best that an infant experiences this bond as early as possible, some situations such as foster families or adoptive families do not have the chance to be with their infant right at birth. The great news is that research has shown that attachment is still possible later in life. For foster or adoptive families wishing to connect with their infant, the massage classes provide a great way to help build that relationship.
Relieves Common Discomforts
Infant massage is also effective at helping a child that suffers from gas or colic. Many infants suffer from constipation or gas at some point, and it is a great cause of irritation for both the child and parent. Colic, or excessive crying that results from pain in the abdomen, is caused by painful stomach gas. Colic is often a source of frustration and helplessness for many parents who don’t know how to help their crying child. Through this course, parents are taught a specific routine that helps to aid in digestion by moving gas through the intestines to provide some relief. It is wonderful to educate parents on a tool that empowers them to combat this situation and learn how to help their child.
Finally, infant massage classes provide a way for parents to connect with other parents. The classes are a judgement-free zone where parents are encouraged to share both triumphs and struggles with a network of peers that may have experienced the same things and may have some new ideas to offer. And who knows, you may connect with another family that becomes a future friend for playdates with your child. As a parent, it is important to have a community of support and the infant massage classes can help you make these connections. Plus, your baby will love to socialize with the other babies in the class!
For more information about how you can join one of our infant massage classes, click here or give us a call at (828) 670-8056. Massage classes are open to parents and infants of all abilities up to 12 months old.
Hernandez-Reif, Maria & Diego, Miguel & Field, Tiffany. (2008). Preterm Infants Show Reduced Stress Behaviors and Activity after 5 days of Massage Therapy. Infant behavior & development. 30. 557-61.
Feijó, L., Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T., Burns, W., Valley-Gray, S., & Simco, E. (2006). Mothers’ depressed mood and anxiety levels are reduced after massaging their preterm infants. Infant Behavior and Development, 29(3), 476-480.
Kelmanson, I. A. & Adulas, E. I. (2006). Massage therapy and sleep behavior in infants born with low birth weight. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 12, 200-205.
van den Dries, L., Juffer, F., van IJzendoorn, M. H., and Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J. (2009). Fostering security? A meta-analysis of attachment in adopted children. Child. Youth Serv. Rev. 31, 410–421.
Benefits of Infant Massage
Jenn Basch, PT, DPT