Touch Is as Important to Your Baby as Food

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What? Babies need massage?

When I tell people that I teach baby massage, I often get inquisitive looks. What? Babies need massage? Yes they do. It isn't a full body Swedish Massage of course. That would be too much stimulation for these little ones. However, babies do need touch. Without it they wouldn't thrive. The good news is that baby massage is a fun and easy way to touch your baby. 

The importance of baby massage can't be understated. Consider this, when babies are born they move out of the warm, dark comfort of their mother's womb into a cold, bright and noisy world. If  a mom had a hospital birth, her baby's first encounter with the world was probing, pulling and intruding rubber hands. That's pretty jarring after floating in a warm, dark bath for 9 months. Of course babies feel disorientated and unsettled!  When a baby is reconnected with his mother and feels her warm and comforting touch, the baby begins to settle down. That's the power of touch.

Touch is the earliest sense to develop in the womb. Once the baby is born the sense of touch continues to develop, and for the first five days after birth, the newborn's sensitivity to touch increases. Unfortunately, babies in the US are among the least held babies on earth. Well-meaning friends and relatives might tell you that  picking up your baby often will spoil him or her. That is simply not true - you can't "spoil" a baby (a toddler yes, but not a baby!). Babies need to be picked up and held. When contact with the baby is more or less constant, the baby feels loved, lovable and accepted. Baby massage expands this loving touch from head to toe and offers a variety of ways to use touch to calm, comfort and play.

The benefits of baby massage have been so well-documented that many hospitals use it in their neonatal units. A study at the  University of Miami Medical Center showed that "stimulated pre-term neonates averaged  a 47% greater weight gain, were more active and alert during sleep/wake behavior observations, and showed more mature habituation, orientation, motor and range state behavior on the Brazelton scale than control infants". Since the results on preterm babies were so impressive, baby massage was tried on well babies to see if it had any impact beyond the basic effects of holding your baby. And the answer was yes! With the benefits of baby massage becoming more and more evident, the US is finally starting to catch up to much of the rest of the world where baby massage is routine. In many countries baby massage is part of well-baby care. India, for example has a long history of baby massage.

Baby massage is  the perfect way to bond with your baby in a loving way. It's easy and fun  and has so many benefits.

Benefits of Baby Massage for Baby:

  • Improves relaxation and reduces stress Improves hormonal activity

  • Reduces the discomfort of gas, colic, congestion and teething

  • Improves body awareness

  • Strengthens the body systems (respiratory, circulatory, nervous, immune, musculatory and digestive)

  • Promotes bonding and attachment

Baby massage isn't just for mom. It gives dad a way to bond with his baby too. The mutual interaction gives both the baby and the dad self-confidence and time together. It also makes Dad feel more nurturing. Although baby massage is usually something that moms and dads can do with their baby, it is also a great way to get grandparents and caregivers involved.

Studies have shown that bonding increases parents' feeling of attachment as well as a desire to nurture and care for their baby. Baby Massage offers definite benefits to parents as well.

Benefits of Baby Massage for Parents:

  • Increases confidence in parenting

  • Gives a better understanding of baby's cue

  • Enhances communication and emotional ties

  • Improves bonding

  • Helps parents relax and listen to their babies

You can do a baby massage to help your baby sleep better or to help relieve some common tummy complaints, and you can also do a baby massage when you just want to have fun with your baby. With so many great benefits there really is no excuse not to massage your baby. To learn how to massage your baby at home on your own schedule CLICK HERE.

Have questions or comments about baby massage? Please share below!