A new born child is a welcomed bundle of joy and affection in every home, all over the world. However, some time back, babies were often viewed as distant from the surroundings and unresponsive to the changes occurring in the environment. Keeping all misconceptions aside, psychology has proved that babies are actually very sensitive to whatever is occurring in their immediate vicinity, especially the actions and behaviors of the mother.
One of the most stimulating of such actions is the act of a loving touch. Research reveals that a regularly caress or a massage by a parent or a loving caregiver, is critical to a child’s sensory and cognitive development. It is also a healthy and loving way to establish and develop affectionate bonds and spend quality time with the baby.
Benefits of Touch and Baby Massage
Touch is one of the first moments of expression for a baby. A gentle touch and help young babies grow stronger and reduce childhood anxiety. Infants who receive regular massages, display 50% more eye contact and thrice as much as likely to generate an overall positive expression, then those who do not.
In many hospitals and child care centers, newly born infants are placed on the mother’s chest or abdomen, to give them the best possible skin contact. Such close contact initiates ‘bonding’ or ‘attachment’, and helps in calming the baby’s breathing.
Regularly and gentle massaging strengthens the bond between mother and child, and forms the strong emotional base for future relationships. In addition to enhancing emotional bonds, a regular, efficient massage relaxes the baby and reduces crying. It also enhances digestion, prevents gas, colic, constipation and helps the baby in healthy weight gain.
A good massage increases the quality of baby’s night time sleep, relieves nasal blockage, reduces teething irritation, enhances muscle tone, muscle coordination and reflexes, strengthens immune system and improves skin texture, smoothness and suppleness. It also boosts the mother’s confidence and happiness during handling her child. Most importantly, a loving and gentle touch may boost the child’s cognitive development, alertness and attentiveness.
Baby Massage Tips and Tricks
The time for massage should be chosen accordingly, preferably when the baby is awake and alert, and not when he or she is feeling hungry, or full after a meal, or is sleepy. Ensure adequate temperature and lighting in the room: not too bright, not too hot or cold. The required items like oil, powder, towels, clothes, diapers etc. should be kept at hand, and all jewelry should be removed, as it may irritate the baby’s delicate skin and interfere in the massaging process. Eye to contact is essential, so the baby must be positioned comfortable so that he or she can clearly see the mother’s face, while relishing the comfort of her touch, and the mother should also relax herself, to further calm her surroundings and her baby.
An important thing to be kept mind is that, different babies respond differently, so the mother has to be alert and patient to her baby’s emotional and behavioral cues. For example, young babies tend to feel more secure when most of their clothes are left on, and they feel direct skin to contact with their mother’s body. It is advised not to massage the baby when he/she is sick, has been immunized or has a rash or irritated red skin.
There is no need to apply a lot of oil or lotion, just enough to allow the mother’s fingers to move smoothly over the baby’s skin. Most importantly, the mother should wash her hands before massaging her baby, and should keep materials like oil out of reach of children, which may cause accidental consumption or any other injury.
Through a well-planned, regular massage, a mother gets to learn her baby more closely, and strengthen the relationship. She will be more aware of her baby’s likes, dislikes, and the best time for playing, cuddling or feeding, which is suitable for her baby.
Newborn Massage Guide
It is important to take time and observe the baby’s response to a massage, especially if it’s a new born, as they are very delicate and sensitive. In the initial weeks, it is advisable to use slow and gentle strokes, without concentrating on one area. Most new born babies have highly stimulated senses and may only crave to be in the arms of their parents, or just enjoy a simple stroke on their backs, over their clothes.
Before the massage, it is good to check whether there is enough oil or lotion on the hands, and then begin with legs. It is an acceptable area with new born babies, and slow, downward strokes are preferable. Babies usually love a gentle foot massage. The mother should observe the baby’s level of sensitivity. Stroking the top of the feet, from toes to ankles, gently squeezing and rolling each toe, can generate and overall positive impact on the baby. When the baby’s umbilical cord area has been healed, gentle strokes on the tummy with a reassuring hand, can enhance digestion and prevent tummy upsets. Skin to skin enhances the bond between parents and the baby. Holding the baby close to the chest, light strokes can be given on its back, descending from the head to the bottom.
Gentle massaging on the chest, can relieve congestion. While massaging the chest, it is required to glide down the chest with resting hands, from the center and then around, in the manner of flattening the pages of a book. Massaging the face can help prevent crying and teething irritation. Small circles around the jaw, using fingertips, can be very relaxing for the baby.
Postnatal Depression and Touch
After a baby is born, mothers and fathers often go through a form of depression known as ‘postnatal depression’. A common tern for this is ‘baby blues’, and often involves emotional shifts in the mother: from being very happy in one moment, to being melancholic and emotional during the next. This usually is short lived. Research on postnatal depression, shows that positive touch through baby massage, can enhance baby and parent attachment and relieve the effects of such depression, through deep eye contact, skin contact, voice and other forms of emotional interaction.