As a parent, you want to do everything you can to ensure your baby's health and wellbeing. One of the best ways to do this is through baby massage. Baby massage is the gentle action of a parent who caresses their baby's body with the use of safe and effective massage oil or lotion specifically designed for babies. This type of massage has many benefits, from helping babies gain weight to reducing stress and improving sleep cycles.
When it comes to giving your baby a massage, start by massaging the upper body with your hands on the baby's shoulders. Make smooth movements towards the chest. Place the baby on their back and start by slowly rubbing each part of the body. Your touch should be soft at first.
In the first few weeks, use slow, positive movements, without spending too much time on one area. Newborn babies may find their senses overstimulated and most will seek comfort in their parents' arms for the first few weeks and some will just want a gentle blow to the back, on their clothes. Start adopting a routine with these newborn massage techniques, and when your baby is older, visit our baby massage guide to learn more about this important ritual. As a result, babies' “senses of safety and security increase, and all of this leads the individual to a more balanced state of well-being overall,” says Ronda Cheatham, owner of A Touch of Grace Massage Therapy in Remington, Virginia. Over time, babies begin to anticipate scheduled activities, and a consistent bedtime routine can help your baby realize it's time to relax and go to sleep.
Additional research suggests that infant massage is especially useful for mothers with postpartum depression who have trouble bonding with their babies. For example, some micropremature babies cannot be managed too much because of changes in the baby's heart rate. This is because of the five senses, touch is one of the most developed at birth, and there is research that suggests that infant massage has tremendous benefits in helping babies grow and thrive. You can also try placing your baby on their stomach for a brief massage, although some babies may not like to be on their stomach for a long time. In one study, babies who received massage showed better heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of nervous system function each week. There are many studies that show that human contact reduces stress and lowers blood pressure in adults, and babies are no different. While the exact reason is unknown, studies have shown that baby massages can help premature babies gain weight.
According to this study, premature babies who received “touch therapy” (a massage) gained 47 percent more weight than premature babies who did not receive any massage. Researchers found that when coconut oil was used (as opposed to mineral oil), babies (both premature and full-time) gained more weight. Because melatonin's primary function is to regulate sleep cycles, baby massage helps babies fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. So if you're looking for ways to help your little one relax and get better sleep, consider giving them a gentle massage.