Why Should I Learn How to Massage my Baby?

Massaging your baby can benefit both child and mother, find out how with the help of The International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM)

The first 1001 days of life are thought to be the most important for a child’s social and emotional development.  Babies and children need plenty of positive, undivided attention in order to grow into healthy and happy adults, and the provision of nurturing touch through physical affection, cuddles and massage is an important aspect in this process.  

There are so many physical, social, mental and emotional benefits of baby massage, and it all starts with the profound power of touch as a means of communication.   

Touch communication:

The sense of touch is the first sense to develop in your unborn child during pregnancy, and is activated in utero at weeks six to eight.  As your baby then reaches term, they will experience all sorts of touch stimulations during his or her descent of the birth canal, and so it follows, that after birth (and while other senses such as eyesight and speech are developing), touch is a primary means of communication between baby and its environment and caregivers. 

Suzanne Adamson, founding member of the IAIM UK said: “One can express more love in five seconds of a loving touch than in five minutes vocally, particularly to an infant.”

Bonding & attachment

The primary benefit of baby massage is the development of the early attachment relationship and bond between parent/caregiver and baby.  The art of infant massage – which involves eye contact, emotional expression, touch and vocal communication – is a proven method of strengthening this adult-child bond. 

It teaches baby about how to form healthy attachments, during what is the most sensitive period of their social and emotional development, and enables them to go on to relate positively to their peers in the playground and in later life.

It can also help carers who are suffering from isolation, lack of confidence, difficulties bonding and post-natal depression. 

Baby massage can have an especially positive effect for infants with medical and/or additional needs, where the development of the natural bond may be delayed, as well as for families who experience periods of separation. Service families, for example, may benefit greatly from using baby massage as a means of re-connection, helping them to form a healthy bond with their baby after months away. 

Post-natal depression 

As for mum, the adult-infant bond that is created through infant massage has been proven to deliver a positive outcome for mothers experiencing post-natal depression symptoms.

Massaging your baby when you have been through a life changing, challenging experience can be incredibly healing and it can focus your mind, put life back into perspective, and give you strength to carry on. 

Massaging your baby reduces cortisol levels, (the hormone secreted when stress levels are running high), and increases oxytocin, (the feel-good hormone) for both mum and little one. 

Health & happiness

Seeing a happy smiling face and receiving nurturing touch, during quality one-to-one time, is so important for baby – creating a sense of safety and security, which results in lower stress levels and the ability to self-soothe.

Brain development is shaped and stimulated by touch, and brain activity is stabilised.  The experience can have a profoundly positive effect on baby’s self-confidence, personality and lifetime relationship with their family and society in general. 

Psychologists believe that infants who receive nurturing touch are more likely to develop into well-balanced individuals with a strong sense of self and less chance of developing psychological problems in later life. 

Babies who are massaged generally also stay physically healthier, as nurturing touch promotes the development of a healthy immune system, through the reduction of cortisol levels.

Colic, wind, constipation, teething pain and difficulty settling, may all be eased through baby massage.  Sleep patterns can improve and muscle development and tone is supported, tense muscles relax, and constipated babies regain regular bowl movement.  When baby starts walking, massaged babies are also observed to have better balance than those who have not been massaged.

Social boundaries

Specialist baby massage courses (those provided by the iaimbabymassage.co.uk) will also teach parents about developing healthy social boundaries in their child – and how baby massage can be practised in a way which teaches consent, by setting and respecting these boundaries.  Through the practise of parents asking permission to touch their baby (and then looking for cues which grant this permission), the baby learns to understand that they are respected, and ownership of their body develops.

“The effect of touch in infancy is something so simple, and yet so profound” says Suzanne Adamson, founding member of IAIM UK.

The International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM) is the largest and longest standing infant massage association in the world – with an international heritage dating back to the 1960’s – and still to this day is the only association in the world dedicated solely to infant massage.  This summer, the IAIM UK Chapter, accredited by The Royal College of Midwives, celebrates a milestone anniversary as it turns 20.  For parents interested in taking part in an IAIM infant massage course, you can visit their website iaimbabymassage.co.uk to search for your local Certified Infant Massage Instructor

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