The Benefits of Infant Massage
Deepening the bond with your baby.
“My baby began to coo and smile as I massaged him gently. I felt a deep connection between us.”
New mom, Cathy
Touch is a baby’s lifeline. Through it, parents communicate love and attachment and offer the necessary stimulation for physical and emotional growth and development. Touch just naturally happens when we care for a baby. It seems impossible not to stroke and touch while feeding, bathing, changing and playing.
But as Cathy discovered, infant massage can take day-to-day caring touch to a new level.
An ancient art, infant massage is practised every day all around the world. Since hitting North America around 1970, infant massage has been studied extensively and its value extolled. The benefits to both parties are significant.
For the baby, the benefits may include:
- appropriate weight gain
- better sleeping patterns
- improved muscle tone
- enhanced neurological development
- relief of discomfort, such as gas and constipation
- improved communication with the parent
For parents, the benefits may include:
- improved ability to soothe the baby and meet needs
- improved ability to read baby’s cues
- increased confidence in parenting abilities
- enhanced bonding and attachment
Infant massage even benefits society. That’s because children who are shown love and respect grow to be loving, respectful adults who know how to communicate caring and appropriate touch to the rest of the world. Studies show that children who are touched appropriately grow up to be less violent, creating a more peaceful society.
Parents learn the strokes and routines of infant massage through Certified Infant Massage Instructors (CIMI). These instructors are very different from Registered Massage Therapists (RMT) who actually provide the massage therapy to the client. CIMIs don’t provide message, they simply teach parents the massage techniques. The reason is that infant massage is most beneficial when carried out by the parent or primary caregiver, as attachment is a crucial component.
A massage course teaches parents massage strokes according to body part. For instance, in the courses I teach, we always start with the legs and feet since infants use them to reach out to the world and they tend to be the least vulnerable areas of their body.
In the next class, parents learn the strokes for the tummy, which can be particularly helpful for those babies with gas, constipation or colic. Week three covers the strokes for the arms, hands and chest. And in the final week, parents are taught strokes for the face and back.
Most infant massage courses also offer ample time for parent discussion and a social time. Infants are massaged with an edible oil, such as grapeseed or olive, and are in a warm room with space for baby and parent on the floor.
Build your relationship
Infant massage is more than just the strokes and the physical act of massaging your infant. It is a tool to be used in the important task of building a relationship with your baby. The more you can learn about one another, the better your relationship will be.