The Power of Infant Massage: How to get Started
A Glimpse into the Origins
We teamed with Elina Furman, founder of Kahlmi and a certified Infant Massage Instructor, who discovered the wonders of baby massage when her firstborn was suffering from colic. Although infant massage is a well-established practice in many parts of the world, it's not as widely recognized in the United States. However, it holds immense potential for helping babies with colic, sleep issues, and more.
It's no secrete baby's like their parents touch - rocked to sleep, held when fussy, and happy when holding, but setting a space for infant massage has a plethora of benefits to both parents' & baby!
The Benefits for Baby
1. Enhanced Bonding
Infant massage creates a beautiful opportunity for parents and their babies to connect on a deeper level. During massage, both the parent and baby experience a release of oxytocin, often referred to as the "love hormone." This hormone increases serotonin and dopamine levels, fostering a stronger emotional connection.
2. Improved Physical Health
Beyond the emotional benefits, infant massage can positively impact a baby's physical well-being. It aids in the development of the immune system, supports digestive health, alleviates sleep disturbances, eases teething discomfort, and provides relief for colic. Even if the results aren't immediate, establishing a consistent massage ritual can lead to cumulative benefits over time.
3. Cognitive Development
Consistency is key in infant massage. By setting aside just 10 to 15 minutes a day, you're not only nurturing your baby but also promoting cognitive development. Physical touch has been linked to improved cognitive function, better autonomic regulation, and a lower risk of inflammatory and metabolic issues later in life. The first 1000 days of life are when most neural pathways are formed, stimulating baby with infant massage helps create and shape neural connections that will impact them for the rest of their lives!
4. Secure Attachment
Infant massage nurtures a secure attachment between parent and child. It helps regulate reward and behavior-seeking behaviors and enhances social cognition. These early experiences lay the foundation for lifelong emotional well-being and social development.
The Benefits for Parents
1. Stress Reduction and Inner Peace for Mom
The journey into motherhood is an identity shift, and infant massage offers a valuable opportunity for mothers to find inner peace. It promotes co-regulation, helping mothers and infants calm together through synchronized breathing. This can help minimize maternal stressors and inflammatory factors that may impact breast milk production.
2. Mindful Moments and Self-Care for Parents
The practice of infant massage encourages parents to slow down and tune into their instincts. It creates a space for mindful moments and self-care, allowing mothers to recharge and bond with their infants in a serene environment.
3. Improved Well-Being
The benefits extend to mothers' overall well-being. Increased cognitive function, improved autonomic regulation, and enhanced immune function are just a few of the positive outcomes. By touching and bonding with their infants, mothers are laying the groundwork for a lifetime of positive development for their child.
The Science Behind Stimulation and Regulation
The act of massaging a baby helps regulate neural, social, emotional, and primary systems. It plays a crucial role in shaping neural connections, which impact a child's lifelong development. Research shows that babies who receive massages demonstrate better focus, improved ability to absorb new information, and healthier circadian rhythms, leading to more restful sleep.
Techniques + Tips to Get Started:
- Pro Tip: Always massage in a clockwise direction.
- Pro TIp: Parenting is hard & most days are busy, set aside 10 minutes to find time to integrate infant massage into your daily routine! Massages can be done during bath time or after changing diapers on the changing table.
- Technique #1 "LUV" massage stroke aids in nutrient absorption and relieve gas. Holding your pointer and middle finger together, gently press the pads of your fingers down the left side of baby’s belly. Start at the bottom of baby’s rib cage, and move the whole way down to baby’s left leg crease (like the letter “I”). Then, starting on the left side of your little one’s belly, drag your fingers across to the right and down, like an upside down “L.” Lastly, starting at baby’s right leg crease, drag your fingers in the shape of an upside-down “U” over their belly button and all the way to the left leg crease.
- Technique #2 "Water Wheel" massage stroke aids in digestion and colic. Place one hand under your baby's rib cage with the pinky side down and palm facing your baby's feet. Gently scoop your hand down his abdomen, stopping above his pelvis. Repeat the motion with your other hand, and continue alternating hands fluidly.
- Technique #3 "Milking the Leg" massage stroke aids in relieving a gassy baby. Holding one of baby’s feet in your hand, use your other hand to gently “milk” the leg from their thigh down to their heel. Then reverse and “milk” baby’s leg in the other direction, from heel up to their thigh. You can also hold baby’s leg under their knee, and gently press it up towards their tummy to help them move and release any trapped gas.
- Technique #4 "Thumbs to Sides" helps baby in relieving gas. Hold your baby at the waist with both your thumbs in the center of his belly. Draw both thumbs out to the sides of his abdomen simultaneously.
- Technique #5 “Open Book” stimulates the facial muscles. Using the flat part of your fingers, start at the middle of baby’s forehead and stroke out to the sides of their head, as if you’re flattening the pages of a book. Then gently move your hands down along the sides of their face. Try not to cover your little one’s eyes or nose with your hands so that you can keep eye contact (and maybe catch a smile!)