Infant Massage: Understanding the benefits

Infant massage provides a gentle way to relax and bond with your baby. By definition, a massage refers to the systematic rubbing and kneading of the body to release tension and ease pain. Many parents are aware that touch and contact is a key part of the infant bonding experience. The beauty about infant massage is that it goes beyond simply touch. It involves:

  • Engaging with the baby consciously and been present in the moment
  • Been aware of non-verbal cues from the baby
  • Creating a connection between touch and the baby’s needs

There are great health benefits when these three facets of infant massage are present. Research continues to show that infants develop better when they experience massage therapy.

In the images above, Jacky from Johnson’s trains Tunza Mama caregivers on infant massage. This training adds value to the range of services that Tunza Mama caregivers provide moms and their families with.

Top 5 benefits of Infant Massage

Infant massage has numerous health benefits for your little one. These include:

1.      Bonding with the baby

Baby massages allow parents to form a closer relationship with the baby. As the parents gently strokes the baby’s skin and pays attention to their non-verbal cues, trust develops between the two. This gives the parent/caregiver more confidence in caring for the baby, while allowing the baby to feel secure in a loving environment. This has also been linked to better emotional regulation when babies have a secure attachment with their caregivers.

2.      Improved Sleep

A study done by the Touch Research Institute took infants who had problems falling asleep and had them receive infant massages for the period of the research. A different control group had parents read a bedtime story. After a month, infants who got massaged by their parents had significantly less delays falling asleep. Simply put, infant massage helps your little one to sleep better. The benefit thereof is that parents and caregivers are also able to sleep better, which in turns improves their mental health.

Read more about that study by clicking this link.

3.      Weight gain, especially in low-birth weight babies

One of the challenges that low-birth weight babies face is sustaining weight gain in the first few days of life. Infant massage has been shown to help preterm babies gain weight. According to this research, this is attributed to the stimulation of the growth hormone, thus promoting the baby’s growth and development.

4.      Pain relief especially during teething

Teething presents a challenge for many babies and parents, and for good reason. Babies experience discomfort when their teeth are about to emerge. This not only disrupts sleep patterns, it also makes most babies a little fussier. Giving your baby a facial massage is a great way of easing this pain and discomfort. In fact, this technique has been shown to allow the release of endorphins. Endorphins play an important role in calmness and providing pain relief, which is very helpful for a teething baby.

5.      Better functioning of the GIT

New parents are all too aware of the trouble GIT disturbances cause in infants. These range from excessive gas in the stomach to colic and constipation, all of which create a lot of distress. Infant massage techniques help babies feel better by helping the baby’s body to digest better. In addition, this also helps expel the gas that causes the discomfort. Tummy massages are a wonderful way to help improve the function of the gastrointestinal tract.

For some moms with Postpartum Depression, infant massage has been shown to help with caring for the baby. Since it allows moms to bond with their little ones, it is linked to giving moms more confidence in parenting. It is important to note, however, that Postpartum Depression and Anxiety makes it harder for most moms to learn their babies’ cues. In this regard, it is crucial that affected mothers get professional help for their mental health so that infant massage has even greater benefits for the mother-child dyad.

Read More: Postpartum Depression and what mothers and families must know

When is the right time to start infant massage?

According to the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), touch can be initiated immediately after birth, barring any health complications. A good place to start would be with Kangaroo Mother Care that requires babies to be placed on their mother’s chest for skin-to-skin contact. This skin contact also allows for easier nursing and bonding with the baby.

Once Kangaroo Mother Care is initiated, parents can then steadily introduce back strokes and leg strokes before applying the same to the rest of the body. This progression relies on the bond between the parent and the baby, as well as the baby’s cues. This way, infant massage can be incorporated into a regular routine for the aforementioned benefits.

Read More: Kangaroo Mother Care is recommended by WHO. Here’s why

How do I go about infant massage?

What you will need

  • A soft blanket or towel
  • Massage oil (optional)

Using a soft blanket or towel provides a comfortable setting for the baby. While massage oil is optional, it is often preferred because it prevents friction between the parents’ hands and the baby’s delicate skin. Make sure you test the oil first by applying a small amount to a part of the baby’s skin. Wait a while to check if there is any adverse reaction. This is an important step particularly for babies with sensitive skin, or those with allergies. In line with this, odorless edible oil is recommended.

It is best to start infant massage when the baby is quiet and alert. In this state, the baby is usually calm and happy to stay still. They may also reach out for you. As time progresses, parents are better able to learn their baby’s cues. Additionally, it is advisable to avoid it immediately after nursing or when baby is fussy and sleepy. Giving your baby a massage immediately after feeding increases the chance of vomiting.

  1. Start by sitting on the floor. Put the soles of your feet together. This helps create a diamond shape that provides a safe and convenient place to massage the baby. You will then place the blanket or towel over this space.
  2. Once you are set, undress the baby so that they remain in their diaper. Since the baby will be undressed, it helps to create a warm environment. You may include a heater during your infant massage routines.
  3. Place the baby so that their head rests on your feet. Begin with a gentle stroke that gets the baby into the routine. This stroke is sometimes referred to as the ‘hello’ stroke, and runs from the baby’s head to their toes. Take note of the baby’s response – if their body stiffens, or they become fussy, you may need to massage a different part of the body. Sometimes, the fussiness does not die down and you may need to end that infant massage session.
  4. If the baby is receptive, then proceed with massaging the baby’s head, shoulders and upper back. You may also include the thighs and feet as you proceed downwards. Turn the baby so that they lie on their back. Use this time to stretch the baby’s limbs, one at a time and then stretch both legs simultaneously. You may repeat these strokes for a little longer.
  5. Remember to remain calm throughout the session. Talking or singing to your baby really helps with the bonding. It also helps to call the baby by their name, being as gentle as possible. Continually relax the baby’s body to help release tension and create a safe environment for your little one.

Here is a brief video taken during the Mama Toto Pregnancy and Baby Expo in Kisumu. In the video, one of the Tunza Mama Trainers, Goretti shows new mothers how to give their infants a massage. Observe how she connects with the babies, and the gentle firm strokes we have mentioned above.

We are having infant massage sessions too at the Mama Toto stand, where the moms are learning how to massage their infants from the amazing Goretty. The sessions are free, so if you are in Kisumu come learn with us today. Thank you NipNap Premium Baby Diapers for giving mommies and daddies a premium and affordable product.

Posted by Mamatoto Childbirth And Educative Services on Sunday, November 10, 2019

Helpful Tips to remember during infant massage

  • Ensure that you stroke the baby gently and firmly. What you need to avoid is making the strokes ticklish.
  • Create a routine that incorporates infant massage into the baby’s daily routine.
  • Learn to understand baby’s cues, and know when to stop. A massage session can be as short as 10 minutes, or as long as half an hour. It all depends on how your baby feels.

Tunza Mama offers birth preparation classes and postnatal care education. These classes enlighten you and help you be more relaxed and prepared during pregnancy and new parenthood. What’s more, our caregivers are trained to offer infant massage for your little ones. They also guide moms and dads on how to do it as they learn their babies. Interested in these services? Get in touch with us on any of our social media platforms, or contact our call center on 0709 256 200 (Note that normal tariffs apply).

Resources

International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM)

The Effects of Infant Massage on Weight, Height and Mother-Infant Interaction (Link)

Featured Image (Source)