By Bindy Cummings and Dr Tessa Grigg
Baby massage has been practised in many countries and cultures for centuries and for good reason. It uses many of the senses making it a well-rounded sensory experience for your baby.
Research studies show that massage and loving touch have positive effects on baby’s brain, body and emotional development. It provides an important communication time between parents and babies, helping you both to relax. It is a powerful tool in the attachment (bonding) process for both parents and the baby(1).
When your baby is touched with warmth/ and care, their brain is flooded with hormones. These hormones enable your baby’s brain to form more neural connections. Babies massaged regularly have been found to have significantly better brain growth and development.
When babies are born, they know little about their own bodies. Touch is your baby’s most developed sense at birth. At this stage of their lives, they learn most about their world through their sense of touch.
Massage provides important touch stimulation. It helps babies learn about themselves. Massage stimulates nerve endings that send messages to the brain, helping your baby learn about their body parts and how to control them. This is the development body awareness, or a ‘body map’, which is one of the vital building blocks, so important for the development of their future coordination and learning ability.
By playing relaxing music whilst you massage you will also be helping to develop your baby’s hearing, speech and rhythm.
Studies have shown that classical music, especially by Mozart, Vivaldi and other Baroque composers, is especially good for your baby’s brain development(2).
You can start massage as soon as possible after birth.
We know it can be hard to fit everything into a day, especially if you have more than one child, but if you can, massage your baby, even if only for a short while, once a day. Always use your baby’s reactions as a guide. If they have had enough, it’s time to stop.
Nappy change time, or after baby’s bath are great times for parents to have a relaxing, delightful massage and communication time with their baby.
Before you start
Make sure you are massaging at a time when both you and your baby are relaxed and happy
Massage your baby slowly to enable the messages to be absorbed through the central nervous system to the brain.
Make sure your hands and the room are warm.
Be sure that your hands are warm on your baby and keep your rooms warm, Massaging on the floor on a sheeps wool mat is a safe and comfortable place for your baby.
Wear comfortable clothing yourself and as little as possible for baby.
Wear comfortable clothing yourself and the less clothing for baby, the better. Less clothing means more touch stimulation and freedom of movement for your baby.
If you would like to use an oil, we recommend organic, cold pressed, light, edible vegetable, nut or seed oils. Do not use any oil that you yourself would not put in your mouth. Before you use a new oil, always test a little of the oil on a small patch of your baby’s skin and leave it for 24 hours to check for any reaction. Do not use the oil if there is a reaction.
If you do use an oil, be careful when you pick your baby up as their skin could be slippery.
Why do we recommend organic ,cold pressed oils.
Well, pure cold pressed oil is easily absorbed by the skin as opposed to mineral oil, which tends to leave a greasy film over the skins surface. Because cold pressed oils are absorbed so well, it is important that they are organic and free from pesticides as you don’t want pesticides being absorbed into the body’s system.
If there’s a history of food allergies in your family, avoid the types of oils/ based on those food types. Peanut allergy/ is a common example. Peanut oil /is not recommended for baby massage.
This would be one of the reasons that paraffin based oils are also not recommended.
Investing time in baby massage is a very powerful sensory experience for your child and will aid their development. Enjoy!
- Shoghi M, Sohrabi S, Rasouli M. The effects of massage by mothers on mother-infant attachment. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine. 2017;23(7):199-204.
- Zhao TC, Kuhl PK. Musical intervention enhances infants’ neural processing of temporal structure in music and speech. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2016;113(19):5212-7.