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Benefits of Baby Massage for Infants and Parents

Massaging your infant can help you and your child bond better. Other benefits of baby massage include:

Infant receiving massage
  • 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 your child's nonverbal cues.


Infant Massage Guidelines

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.

  • Always be gentle.

You can use oil or not, depending on your preference and your baby's sensitivities. However, do not use oil on the face to avoid getting the oil into the eyes.

A small dab of coconut oil may be a good choice (Effect of Virgin Coconut Oil Application on the Skin of Preterm Newborns).

The best oil for baby massage if your baby has eczema may be jojoba.

One study suggested olive oil or sunflower oil may not be good for an infant's skin (Olive and sunflower oil on baby skin weakens natural defences). But a different study suggested both sunflower and almond oil are good options (The Effect of Sunflower Seed and Almond Oil on Preterm Infant Skin).

Also see the study Olive Oil, Sunflower Oil or no Oil for Baby Dry Skin or Massage.

Video: How to Massage a Baby

Research Showing the Benefits of Baby Massage

The Touch Research Institute has done numerous studies that show the benefits of infant massage. Here's a sampling:

  • 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. 

Video: Baby Massage for Colic

Massaging your child's chest and tummy may help stimulate digestion and reduce colic symptoms.

Video: Baby Massage for Constipation

Use the massage techniques in this video to help your child poop.

Related: Essential Oils for Babies.

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Photo Credits: miss pupik CC