Babies (and their parents) benefit hugely from the power of touch. If just soothing and touching your infant calms and relaxes them, a full or part body massage is going to do them a world of good – just as it does an adult.
Studies have shown that massaging a baby can help to reduce crying and fussiness, help him to sleep better and for longer, and even alleviate some painful conditions like colic. Some experts also believe that baby massage helps fend off germs and illnesses by boosting their developing immune system.
Giving your baby a massage helps to stimulate his central nervous system, which makes his brain produce more feel-good serotonin and less stress-inducing cortisol. This slows down his heart rate and breathing, making him relax. Baby massage is great for infants’ mental well-being as well as their physical health; affectionate touch and rhythmic movement are important tools for parents to use to bond with little ones.
The effects of learning baby massage are also felt by parents – if you’re feeling stressed and out of control with a crying baby, a gentle massage can help both of you to calm down, leaving you feeling in more control.
Get started with massage
Choose a time when your baby is awake and alert, but calm.
Don’t attempt to massage a baby who is already crying or fussy as you could over-stimulate his nervous system and exacerbate the problem.
In a quiet, warm place, take baby’s clothes off except his diaper, and lay him facing upwards on a soft towel or blanket with a pillow under his head.
Start by holding his little hands, and gently rubbing his palms with your thumbs. Start the massage with his legs and work your way up his body.
Wrap your hands around your baby's leg. Gently but firmly slide your hands down from his thigh to his ankle a few times, then repeat on the other leg.
Place your hands at navel level, then move your fingertips in a circular motion over his tummy.
Take baby's arm gently and roll it between your hands, starting with his shoulder and moving down to his wrist. Repeat this move two or three times, then repeat on the other arm.
Start with the belly massage above, then bend baby’s knees towards his tummy and gently hold them there for around 30 seconds. Release the hold and repeat a few times. Then, put the edge of your hand on his belly, and slide it rhythmically down from the belly button to help release trapped gas. Repeat if needed.