You are probably always on the lookout for ideas or products that will help your baby sleep better, right? Most of our readers are. I was the same way when my kids were babies – I would try anything (within reason) if there was even a chance that doing so could result in better sleep for my baby!
If you are the same way, then the topic of today’s blog article may interest you. We’re talking about infant massage today. What is it? Why try it? And (most importantly, in our readers’ opinions), will it help your baby sleep?
What Is Infant and Baby Massage?
In truth, infant massage is nothing new. The practice of gently massaging babies has been around for centuries, in many cultures (in Indian culture, for example). However, infant massage is a relatively new practice in the West. That’s due largely to the work of a woman named Vimala Schneider McClure.
While working at an orphanage in India, Vimala watched as a 12-year-old girl routinely massaged all the children. Although the children lacked proper nutrition, they all thrived; McClure came to believe this was thanks to the regular massages they received. Returning to the United States in the mid-70’s, McClure set out to spread the word about infant massage. Her message received attention, and now, infant massage is widely recognized as a beneficial practice.
McClure’s approach to infant massage includes the Indian massage strokes she learned while working there; it also includes Swedish massage strokes and reflexology techniques.
The Benefits of Infant Massage – For You And Your Baby
According to moms and dads who’ve used infant massage, the benefits are numerous. And here’s the thing: infant massage is good for both you and your baby!
Some of those benefits include:
- …improved digestion. Believe it or not, infant massage can actually aid a baby’s digestion, thereby reducing gas and bloating. So if your baby suffers from gas, this could be a way to help him feel comfortable.
- …relief of stress and tension. This works for both you and your baby. Gently massaging your baby can help calm and relax her, and it will help calm and relax you in the process. This may be especially welcome information for parents of babies who are especially fussy, or who are suffering from colic.
- …increased bonding. Nurturing touch conveys love to a baby in a way that nothing else can. So massaging your baby is a great way to strengthen the bond between you both. This, in turn, will promote healthy emotional development in your baby.
- …improved growth and development. Studies have indicated that babies who are routinely massaged by their parents show increased weight gain and improved development. They also tend to have improved immune function, meaning they don’t get sick as often! That alone may be a good reason to try infant massage. 😉
- …improved sleep! That’s right, parents – infant massage really does help babies sleep well! Studies show that infants who are massaged by their parents before bed tend to fall asleep faster, sleep more deeply, and stay asleep longer. In fact, this study showed an increase of approximately 1.3 hours a day in sleep quantity for 3 to 6 month olds. Good news indeed, for all you tired moms and dads out there!
How to Massage Your Baby
We cannot teach you all the ins-and-outs of infant massage in a blog article. Infant massage is not a complicated process, but it does require that specific techniques be applied in specific ways to specific points on your infant’s body.
We can, however, give you an overview of how infant massage works. This video demonstrates the basics:
Interested in massaging your baby? Here are a few tips from one of our own sleep consultants, Elaine, who’s trained in infant massage:
- Always use an edible oil. Organic coconut oil makes a good choice.
- Don’t try to massage your infant when he is fussy; wait until he is calm and relaxed.
- If, at the start of the massage, your baby fusses and doesn’t seem to want it, stop. Massaging your baby when she does not want a massage will only make her fussier. Plus, this will help teach your baby, from an early age, that it’s always okay to say no if she doesn’t want to be touched.
- Before massaging your baby, remove any jewelry, and trim your nails, if they are long.
- Always start your massage with the “least invasive” body parts – the feet and the legs. From there, progress upwards.
- Do not massage your baby if he is ill with a fever, or if he has a skin rash or lesions. It’s also recommended that you avoid massaging your baby for 48-72 hours after he’s had an immunization.
- You can start infant massage early – even newborn babies can benefit from massage techniques!
- Massage is something that both parents can do, so be sure that dad gets the chance to offer a massage!
If you’d like to learn how to perform infant massage, visit the Infant Massage USA website, to see if there is a class in your area. Or, check with your local hospital to see if they can recommend a trained infant massage specialist.
If you would like to read more about the origins of infant massage and to learn more about Vimala McClure’s infant massage techniques, check out her book, Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents.