Some of the most important communication that flows between a parent and a child happens through the medium of touch: a gentle hug to brighten spirits, a relaxing cuddle at bedtime with a storybook, a high-five acknowledging a chore well done. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that infant massage can promote restful sleep, maintain your baby’s health, and enhance the bond of love and trust between the two of you.
Promoters of infant massage say that it helps babies to feel relaxed and at peace and demonstrates to them that they are loved. Experts also believe infant massage can boost a young child’s undeveloped immune system, aid digestion and elimination, improve blood circulation, ramp up production of the calm-inducing hormone oxytocin, and even help minimize the agony of teething.
Through the practice of infant massage, a parent can learn more about how his or her baby reacts to other people and to the environment, as well as how to best respond to the baby’s signals. Fathers and mothers who learn infant massage additionally report feeling more comfortable in their roles as caregivers and say that the practice has expanded their repertoire of techniques for soothing their children.
Experts advise parents interested in practicing infant massage to set aside a regular time of day for it, ideally at an hour when you are not juggling errands and chores and your baby is neither too hungry nor over-full. Choose a location where you know your baby will not be or become cold. You may want to use a food-quality, unscented, fruit- or vegetable-based oil. Practice a variety of movements, such as gentle up-and-down motions along your baby’s sides or the playful motion of drawing of a smile along both your baby’s cheeks.