The importance of physical touch between parents and their children can’t be underestimated. But when it comes to babies in particular, skin-on-skin contact and tactile bonding is crucial for healthy development. In addition to holding, hugging, rocking, and cuddling your little one, baby massage is another way to foster connection and support your baby’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Research demonstrates that the “importance of touch is undeniable” in humans and mammals at large. More specifically, studies show that baby massage is effective for increasing mother-infant attachment. A soothing caress, of course, also works wonders to calm your baby down when they’re distressed or it’s time to wind down for bed.
But beyond that, the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM) explains that baby massage can yield benefits including but not limited to:
With these points in mind, the benefits of baby massage are clear. If you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to incorporate this nurturing form of physical touch into your daily routine. Keep reading for key tips and pointers to get you started.
If you yourself enjoy getting massages, you know how crucial the atmosphere of the room is to facilitate comfort and relaxation. To support a calm, restful environment, you may want to consider incorporating dim lighting and/or playing relaxing background music.
You can start a baby massage routine even with a newborn, though it’s worth consulting your OB-GYN first and heed their advice with any new additions or modifications to your little one’s routine. Once that’s clear, you’ll want to make sure that you time the baby massage right throughout the day. For instance, it’s typically best to avoid massaging your baby too soon after mealtime — especially if you’re performing a tummy massage to encourage healthy digestion.
Before and as you massage your baby, it’s important to pay attention to their mood. If your baby cries upon being touched, turns away, winces, or otherwise looks uncomfortable, it’s best to save the massage for another time. However, if they stop crying, yawn, or relax while beginning the massage, those are positive signs that your baby is enjoying and benefiting from your touch.
Going slow and steady is key as you observe your baby’s reaction to being massaged. Begin with firm but gentle pressure, and build up slowly as you gauge their cues as shared in the last point. Your baby may also like being massaged softly on some points and firmer in others, so keep tabs on their level of comfort and enjoyment as you employ different techniques. You can also keep track of other cues during massage time — i.e., if certain body parts or massage techniques tickle them, excite them, or help them relax.
To put your baby at ease during the massage, it helps to talk to them and let them know it’s time to calm down. You can also hum, sing, nod your head, smile, and/or laugh to further communicate that physical contact through massage should be a pleasant and rewarding experience.
Bath time is a wonderful opportunity to incorporate baby massage into your little one’s routine on a daily basis. You can softly stimulate their scalp as you shampoo their hair, as well as apply gentle pressure to their shoulders, back, arms, legs, and feet as you wash them clean. Finally, after towel drying them, we suggest rounding out your calming baby massage routine with a highly nourishing body moisturizer like Silk Milk.