What images do see when you think of massage? Is it an athlete receiving a healing and performance-improving sports massage? Or is it a mom getting a well-deserved massage at a spa? There are many different images we associate with massage – be it athletes, tables, moms, chairs, oils, backs, hands, feet, etc. But one of the last images that I am sure would come to anyone’s mind would be the image of a baby.
But it should be as massage can be an integral part of bringing babies into the world healthily, as well as building a successful relationship with the parent as the baby goes through its first year of life.
First, in the prenatal stage, massage has been shown to reduce anxiety and leg pain that expecting mothers experience. Massage was also, in a study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, shown to improve mood, reduce back pain, and help aid fitful sleep for expecting mothers. Most important, the same study showed that women who received massage “had fewer complications during labor and their infants had fewer postnatal complications”. Pretty impressive stuff from a completely natural form of therapy.
Second, after birth, massage can continue to provide benefits, contributing to the health of the baby while creating a strong relationship between the baby and parent. On the health side, massage has been proven to increase blood flow in the baby, strengthening its immune system, while relieving colic, gas, and aiding digestion.
It may seem difficult give a baby massage – I have trouble keeping them still enough to change a diaper. However, a proper technique is not difficult to master. Before or after bath time, lay your baby on his or her stomach and stroke lightly from shoulder to toe. Do this a couple of times, then do a similar motion from the top of the baby’s shoulder to the bottom of the fingertips. Once finished, flip your baby on his or her back, and repeat the same process, this time to your baby’s front.
Of course, stop if your baby is fidgeting or crying. But try again next bath time, or changing time, or whenever you have the opportunity as massage can create a strong baby-parent bond. It can also lead to healthy growth and development for your child.
So all you new parents out there, when you think of massage, think of your baby and start using massage for your own health as well as the health of your new-born!