Various studies show that massage provides relief from pain caused by problems such as teething, colic, constipation and wind. Massaging a baby’s abdomen helps trapped pockets of air move through the intestines; it can improve overall gastrointestinal function and even increase the appetite. Plus, massage releases endorphins to counteract pain.
When you massage a baby, it stimulates their central nervous system causing the body to produce the feel-good hormone oxytocin. As a result, their breathing deepens, the heart rate slows and the blood pressure lowers. As you care for them and respond to their needs, they produce less cortisol, meaning they’re less likely to react as strongly to stressful situations.
Stimulation and development
It has been suggested that baby massage creates better connections between the brain and body. As well as increasing alertness and improving cognitive performance in the moment, this heightened mental and physical connection can also help prevent colic and general fussiness brought on by over-stimulation. Massage helps the nervous system to mature faster and it becomes better able to cope with stimulus.
Parents and babies are biologically designed to bond with each other after birth. This bond is crucial so that the mother accepts the baby and their needs are met. During the massage you’re are able to connect deeply, make eye-contact and enjoy an easy, relaxed way of bonding. And it’s not just the baby who benefits. Massaging your baby will help you relax during the early days and it has been found to reduce rates of postnatal depression among new mums. The physical interaction builds trust and provides you with a non-verbal way of communicating.
When to begin
Baby massage can begin a few weeks after the birth, but you’ll need to watch your little one for cues. For example, wait until they’re alert and awake, and don’t start if they’re showing signs of distress. During the massage, if they cry or turn their head away stop and try again later. Choose a warm, peaceful spot and wait at least 45 minutes to an hour after feeding to avoid vomiting. Give your baby more enjoyment by talking to them softly, making soothing sounds or singing as you gently stroke their skin.
Get in touch to find out about our baby massage classes at Nightingale, available at home or in our health hub.