I work at a massage salon as a receptionist part time and all day, when I’m there, I am constantly seeing people come out of their massage relaxed and happy. They will go on and on about how great the massage was, how wonderful they feel, the pain relief they have, and even what an amazing therapist they had. There are even quite a few people who request certain therapists time and time again because they just like them so much. And from personal experience I feel like if I could get a massage every week I’d be the happiest girl in the world.
So if that applies to us as adults why couldn’t babies experience something similar?
There is continuous research that is showing benefits of doing infant massage. Benefits include:
o Skin stimulation which speeds up myelination of the brain/nervous systems.
o Increases oxygen and nutrient flow to cells
o Improves muscle tone
o Improves sensory awareness
o Relieve discomfort from teething, congestion, gas and colic, and emotional distress.
o Encourages midline orientation
o The communication that is exchanged between the parent and baby is the beginning of receptive and expressive language development.
This is a very good time to introduce nursery rhymes that can be repeated every massage to increase exposure to words and rhythm of language.
o Encourages bonding with a more intimate interaction helping to develop a relationship of trust and a variety of social skills.
o When built into routines the baby learns to anticipate the comforting experience of massage. These repeated patterns increase trust and strengthen bonding.
o This is a wonderful opportunity for parents to take time to relax with their child. The baby will calm down from the day and so can the parents
How to do it:
When massaging your baby, use gentle, light strokes, but avoid being so light it will tickle. You'll want to move from the center of the body outward—go from upper leg to foot, or shoulder to hand for example
Look for cues from your baby as you massage. She will give you signals to let you know if she is enjoying the massage and when massage time is over.
Begin with the legs, the easiest to work with and the easiest part for baby to accept. Hold the foot with one hand and "milk" the leg from ankle to thigh with the other. Then, hold the thigh with both hands, as if holding a baseball bat, and using a gentle twisting and squeezing motion, move your hands from thigh to foot. Finally, roll the leg between your hands from knee to ankle. As you move down the leg to the foot, do a series of thumb presses with your hand encircling the ankle and foot. For the finishing touch, lightly stroke the legs from thigh to feet before you move onto the trunk.
To massage the abdomen, slide your whole palm and fingers in a hand-over-hand circular motion, working from the rib cage downward. Next, slide both hands around the abdomen in clockwise circular movements. To relax a tense, bloated abdomen try the "I Love U" stroke . Finally, using fingertip pressure, try "walking" over the abdomen.
For the chest, slide both hands along the rib cage from center to sides and back again, like flattening the pages in a book.
The arms and hands are done in the same fashion as the legs and the feet, beginning, however, with a "pit stop" (massaging the lymph nodes in the armpit).
The face has special strokes all its own – whole handed smoothing; lightly pressing, pushing, and circling with the thumbs; and finally combing from forehead over cheeks with light fingertip strokes. Last, do the back. With the pads of your fingers, lightly rub small circles all over the back. Then gently come with the fingertips from back over buttocks and legs to ankles.
Taken in part from:
Benefits of infant massage. (2011). Retrieved February 17, 2011
Sears (2011). The right touch: the art of infant massage.