There’s a natural inclination to touch your sweet, soft newborn. Feel free to act on this impulse because not only does it feel good to you, but it makes baby happy, too.
Did you know that touch is the most highly developed sense in newborns? Encouraging results from research studies show baby massage relaxes her, helps her grow, and sometimes even soothes crying.
Baby massage helps moms and dads too, by strengthening their bond with baby. Moms say they can better read their baby’s cues, feel more engaged and confident caring for baby when they practice baby massage. It even improved depression in one study of moms. And baby massage lowers dad’s stress too.
Benefits for baby
Baby massage helps newborns in the intensive care unit gain weight faster and sleep longer. Massage helps premature babies improve their digestion, muscle tone, fight infection, behave, and sleep better. When combined with physical activity, massage can also help baby’s bones grow.
While adult massage has long been proven to reduce pain and stress while promoting healing, research on infant massage began about 15 years ago. It’s proven to be so good that some neonatal intensive care units include massage as part of a hospitalized baby’s care.
Massage may not be for all babies, though. Ask your pediatrician or family care provider if there’s any reason you shouldn’t regularly massage your baby.
How it works
Massage gets the blood flowing to baby’s skin and muscles. Warmth flows from your hands, relaxing her blood vessels and increasing blood flow.
Experts think massage releases the calming hormone melatonin and the digestive hormone insulin, which may help with colic. Brain scans of preemies receiving massage show it may help the brain mature.
Follow baby’s response
As you massage your baby, watch for her response. Stress signs, such as turning her head away from you, gagging, hiccupping, or fanning out her fingers or toes, may mean the massage is too stimulating.
Try adding massage into baby’s bath or bedtime routine. Avoid massage for 45 minutes after eating, or if baby has a rash or fever.
Baby Massage 101
Follow these tips from the Mayo Clinic to soothe baby with massage:
- Choose a warm, quiet place where you can maintain eye contact with baby.
- Remove all jewelry, and if you use any type of lubricant, make sure it’s made for newborn or infant skin.
- Begin with a soft, gentle touch and avoid tickling; add a firmer touch if baby tolerates it.
- Slowly stroke or knead baby’s body, spending about a minute in each area.
- Talk, sing or share a story with baby.
- End the massage as gently as you began.