Why baby massage? The possible benefits of massaging your baby include:
Relaxes your baby and improves baby's sleep. Loving touch reduces tension, fussiness, and irritability.
Relieves gas and colic.
Enhances your bonding with your baby. Your nurturing touch conveys love and promotes your baby's emotional and physical growth and well being.
Aids the growth and development of your baby. Studies have shown that massage increases weight gain, immune function, and myelination of nerves. These things are needed for brain and muscle development.
Promotes communication with your baby. You become more aware of baby's nonverbal cues.
Massage can be as simple as five minutes after you change your baby diapers or as elaborate as setting up a special time for a massage. Usually, 10 minutes at a time is enough for an infant.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Wait at least 45 minutes after a baby's feeding to do a massage.
If your baby does not seem to be enjoying the massage, stop.
Do not massage the top of the head because the soft spot is still closing.
You can use oil or not, depending on your preference and your baby's sensitivities. One study suggested olive oil or sunflower oil may not be good for an infant's skin. A small dab of coconut oil may be a good choice. Avoid using oil, which could get into the eyes, on the face.
Sleep Disturbances in Infants: Infants who received massage experienced less difficulty falling asleep and better sleep patterns. (Early Child Development and Care, 168, 95-104.)
Premature babies who were massaged gained 47% more weight, responded better, and left the hospital six days earlier than premature babies who didn't receive massage, saving $10,000 in hospital costs for each massaged infant. Eight months later they were still showing an advantage on weight, mental development, and motor development. (Pediatrics, 77, 654-658.)
Cocaine-exposed newborns who received massage gained more weight, performed better on the Brazelton Newborn Scale (particularly on the motor scale) and had fewer complications. (Pediatrics, 97, 851-855.)
HIV-exposed newborns who received massage gained more weight and performed better on the Brazelton Newborn Scale. (Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 22, 105-112.)
Some healthcare sources believe that many problems in early childhood, including hyperactivity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may be the result of stress during birth. Craniosacral Therapy for Babies and Small Children presents an alternative treatment for these stress-related problems.