The first three months of your baby’s life is a whirlwind of activity: bonding, snuggling, breastfeeding, sleeping, diaper changing, and trying to understand your newborn’s cries. And on that last note: we all want to have as many ways to soothe and comfort these tiny new humans as possible.
Like infant massage. No, it doesn’t involve a spa day complete with a fluffy newborn-sized robe and Peruvian flute music. A time-honored technique that promotes bonding, infant massage is a soothing therapy laying a foundation for healthy, secure interactions and attachment between mother and child. Everyone wins: the baby feels connected and better able to communicate their needs, while the parents build confidence in better understanding subtle cues from their baby.
And then, there’s the physical benefits: stimulation of digestion and learning, reducing stress hormones (and better sleep!!!!) for everyone involved, and of course, increasing relaxation. In fact, a recent study showed that for colicky babies, massage is just as effective as one of those vibrating chairs! And look — those things are lifesavers too. It’s just that infant massage is better at creating connection.
So, what’s involved?
Essentially, infant massage is focused physical connection between you and your baby. We have a few tips below, but for specific guidance on technique, please research an infant massage class near you.
- Make it a part of your bedtime routine, or not; it’s up to you. Honestly, any time is fine, but at the end of the day, it’s up to the baby. They’ll need to be in quiet/alert state — think steady gaze, and a calm demeanor.
- Set the mood! Make sure you’re in a warm, quiet place; a., because they’ll be in their dipes and b., you don’t want any distractions. And yeah, if you’re feeling some Peruvian flute music is in order, cue that right up.
- Wait about 45 minutes after feeding — massages and full tummies do not mix.
- Speak softly to your babe, and if you can, make eye contact.
- Ask for permission to give them a massage — out loud! Seriously. Follow their cues: if they become stiff and turn their head away, it’s probably not the right time.
- The hallmark of an infant massage is a light touch — soft, gentle strokes. And note: there’s definitely a difference between a tickle and a gentle touch. Even babies get annoyed by tickling.
- Use lotion or oil! In a 2016 study conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in conjunction with the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, using lotion with infant massage led to better sleep for the babies — and the mothers. Even better? The scent of lavender, in particular, has been proven to both promote sleep and reduce stress in infants. And that, friends, is priceless.