8 March 2023
Before a baby is able to communicate, parents instinctively use touch to comfort them. Holding, stroking and cuddling babies reassures and soothes them so they feel the world is a safe place to be.
Baby massage increases your awareness of how your baby communicates and enables you to respond to their cues. They might reach out to you gazing into your eyes or turn their head away if they have had enough. Touch is a newborn’s most developed sense since skin develops early in the womb. Baby massage helps them feel a connection with you before they understand words. It is an opportunity for eye contact which fascinates even the youngest of babies. They will respond to it and if you follow instructions from your class this will be positive and gratifying for you both. You will notice your baby’s development with regular contact. It encourages them physically and you will be there every step of the way to delight in their abilities. If you talk and sing to the baby they will start to make chattering noises back and you begin to develop understanding.
Massage can be incorporated in a bedtime routine to help settle babies. It relaxes them so they fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly. Having massage as a tool to help calm your baby and settle them ready for independent sleep is invaluable. Sleep deprivation is extremely detrimental to parents and a big factor in postpartum depression. Not having a crying baby grating on your nerves at night is a relief for the whole family. Parents are less anxious and stressed.
Baby massage is empowering for parents. By setting up a warm and cosy environment perhaps with soothing music parents enable and enjoy calm. It decreases stress hormones in both baby and parent as cortisol levels are reduced while the feel good hormones serotonin and oxytocin increase. Calm gives the baby space and time to grow.
Baby feels nurtured and loved during a massage. You will gain confidence in handling them and trust in your own abilities to comfort them. The eye contact with Baby during a massage builds trust so Baby is at ease with you. As they grow and develop you can applaud their abilities: when they roll over, push up to stand, reverse crawl and eventually walk. As baby massage increases your skills at soothing your baby it will make you feel empowered and better able to cope if your baby fusses and cries a lot. You feel content handling Baby rather than anxious and the attachment between you grows.
Dad or other regular carers can do it. Typically breastfeeding Mums spend more time with Baby while nursing so massage provides an important opportunity for Dad to interact with baby early. Otherwise it may take many months for Dad to bond. Baby will be more confident around Dad and he will gain confidence in settling Baby. Regular baby massage helps you recognise and respond to baby’s cues. Baby massage makes babies happy and laugh easily so you can have so much fun together and form a deep connection.