Infants communicate through their bodies. When you engage an infant in a massage, you begin to listen to the infant; you listen to sounds, you watch movements, you listen with your eyes, your ears and your heart. Infant massage, or touch communication, nurtures the most important relationship the child will ever have: the relationship between the parent and infant. By using infant massage, a parent grasps the art of listening, asking permission, communicating, interpreting and responding to cues. The infant displays engagement/disengagement cues, furthers body awareness, self-esteem, listening and communication. Both infant and parent benefit from eye contact, relaxation, bonding, synchrony, love and trust.
Massage encourages positive bonding between parent and baby at an early stage. Spending intimate one on one time with your little one can help you get to know each other.
It can help you become more confident with handling your child and better at recognising her needs. Spending quiet time massaging your baby will give you the time and space you need to start recognising and learning her cues. Learning to understand your baby will give you a bit of a confidence boost and make you feel more relaxed in those early months.
Physiological benefits of massage include better breathing for your baby, improved lymph and blood circulation and gastrointestinal function.
Massage is calming on the nervous system and is excellent for colic and sleep. Massaging raises levels of the 'feel-good' hormone oxytocin in both you and your baby, helping you both feel calmer and relaxed.
Your baby's muscles relax, breathing becomes deeper and the massage oil nourishes your child's skin. Skin stimulation also provides a vital trigger to the nervous system.
It can also provide relief – massaging your baby's tummy, for example, can help ease colic, constipation or trapped wind.
7. Help babies to relax and sleep longer
Many studies have shown that infants who are massaged put on weight. Massage increases the activity of the vagus nerve and increased vagal activity during massage leads to an increase in the production of sugar absorption hormones such as insulin which could account for the weight gain of infants who are massaged.
8. Improved mental and physical health in infants
Infants who are massaged cry less, sleep better, and have lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisol compared to infants who did not receive massage.