Thanks to the lovely Marci Terpsma, this informative blog post was possible! Marci is a Registered Massage Therapist, instructor, and owner at Revive Health and Wellness in Beaumont, Alberta. She is now offering infant massage classes with Full Circle Birth Collective every few months. Check out our Infant Massage page under the classes tab to find out when our next class is offered.
What is Baby Massage and How Does It Work?
Massage will empower the connection you already have with your baby.
TOUCH – this is the simplest form of communication. "Massaging your baby communicates love, releases tension and helps you better understand your baby’s needs,” Vimala McClure, Infant Massage
The first communication a baby receives and the first language of its development, is through the skin.
How does it work? What happens when you massage a baby?
Massage involves 2 types of responses:
Mechanical response – the result of pressure and movement as soft tissues are manipulated
Reflex response – occurs when the nerves respond to stimulation
There are 4 main categories massage effects on the human body – in this case for infants:
Stimulation, Relief, Interaction and Development, and Relaxation
Nervous System and Brain Development – The sensory stimulation of massage may speed up the rate of myelination of the brain and nervous system. This process is incomplete at birth. Skin stimulation (massage) can speed this up “enhancing rapid neural-cell firing” thereby improving brain/body communication (McClure).
Immune System – massage stimulates nerves in the brain that facilitate nutrient absorption and lower stress hormones. This results in improved immune system functioning.
Respiration – The rate of breathing can be regulated or enhanced with massage. This happens as the massage calms and relaxes the baby and the surrounding musculature. The parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated to respond and release calming hormones, such as oxytocin and dopamine, into the blood.
Circulation – Massage moves things including blood and lymph. Certain strokes can warm up the feet and increase overall circulation, which leads to a better functioning immune system. It can decrease blood pressure due to the dilatation of capillaries and decrease heart rate simply due to relaxation.
Digestion and Excretion – Specific strokes can create movement in the large intestine by increasing peristalsis. Massage will help the baby to relax and experience a decrease in pain, all of which, allow for more effective digestion.
regular massage can help to relieve pain or discomfort from:
o Emotional stress
INTERACTION AND DEVELOPMENT
Massage can help to increase bonding between any parent or caregiver and the child. This is very intimate, one on one time spent with the baby. Parents learn to read their baby’s cues and to respect them. It teaches them how to stop, observe, and then proceed as opposed to a quick reaction. A new parent gains confidence as they understand their baby and trust their instincts.
The most obvious response to massage is relaxation. Touch can settle a fussy baby, calm an outraged toddler or calm and overstimulated child. Regular massage seems to help babies become more tolerant to stressful situations. While stress is a natural part of our lives, infants are not always able to benefit from it as much as they could. There is growing evidence that cortisol levels in babies who are massaged on a regular basis, with a predictable pattern of massage strokes, are lower than babies who are not massaged. As well, the positive hormones like dopamine and serotonin increase.
There have also been studies showing the mother’s hormone levels are positively affected by massaging her baby. These include increased levels of the “love” hormones oxytocin and prolactin. This, in turn, may have an influence on her feelings of success as a mother, breastfeeding and even post-partum depression.
We hope you found this post informative!
I’ve been massaging my 4 month old son since he was 2 months. He loves it and I love it. I do it to start our bedtime routine. Even when he’s fussy, as soon as I start massaging his legs, he calms down and gives me a big ol grin. I absolutely love the bonding experience and the obvious trust he has with me as he allows me to massage his whole body all the way up to his face. I hope to continue doing this for a long time.
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