The benefits of baby massage have been realised in other cultures in countries such as India for centuries. In India, infant massage started in Kerala and infants there are still massaged for 10-20 minutes every morning and evening. In the Gujarat and Punjab regions mothers are massaged daily before and after childbirth as well as the baby. It has only recently become more popular in Western culture, with many options now available to parents looking to learn baby massage techniques.
Much research into the benefits of touch has been carried out by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, founded by Dr Tiffany Field in 1992. She puts the benefits of touch largely down to its ability to reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Oxytocin, the hormone of love and bonding, is released into the bodies of those giving and receiving massage.
There is a long list of the benefits that baby and infant massage can bring:
- massage increases bonding between parents and infants, releasing endorphins for both the giver and receiver and helping to release tension for both. (I find preparing for class surprisingly relaxing despite practising the movements on a doll called Tilly!)
- helping the digestive system, alleviating colic, wind and constipation
- supporting the immune system by increasing the flow of lymph in the body. Unlike the bloodstream which has the heart as its pump, the lymph system has no pump of its own so massage and movement help lymph to move around the body
- movements such as toe rolls can help with nasal conditions and teething discomfort
- massage improves circulation (for example through firm effleurage strokes up the legs helping the venous return) and increasing oxygen in the bloodstream
Daisy Baby Tinies classes include a series of baby massage moves every week. In each class we recap the techniques we have learnt in previous weeks and add some new movements, starting with the feet and legs and working our way up baby’s little body. Baby massage and baby yoga moves are combined with songs, rhymes and gentle postnatal movement for mum.
Before starting massage we take some time to check in with baby and look at their cues, almost like asking their permission to begin. There is no pressure to ‘complete’ the massage routine in class each week, it can be a long time for babies to lie on their backs away from mum’s arms. All of the moves can be used at home when baby is more receptive. Baby massage can be great as part of a bedtime routine for baby, providing a signal that bedtime is approaching and helping them to find a calm, relaxed state ready for sleep.
We use two main massage strokes in class – effleurage strokes and petrissage strokes. Effleurage strokes are long, warming strokes up and down baby’s body using the whole of the palm of your hand. Petrissage strokes are smaller, circular movements that will help to open up the muscle fibres, allowing blood and oxygen to flow through.
To book onto the next term of Daisy Baby Tinies in Hook and experience these benefits for you and your baby, head over to the booking page.
- Infant Massage: The definitive guide for teaching parents, Pauline Carpenter and Anita Epple
- The Magic of Your Touch, Bottomlineinc.com