Babies love to be touched.
It is one of the senses that develops even before they are born, and one of the best ways for parents to quickly bond with their little ones.
Massage is a form of skin-to-skin contact that helps improve the bond between parents and infants.
This is as it helps to engender trust, especially in the first few years of a child’s life.
Both fathers and mothers should also engage in other forms of physical contact, such as cuddling, hugging and rocking their newborns.
Massage is a primal form of intimacy between a mother and her baby.
One of its benefits is that it helps stimulate maternal feelings, as well as the release of the hormone oxytocin.
This hormone is usually secreted before pregnancy, during birth and later as mum comes into physical contact with baby.
It is responsible for triggering various physiological functions and emotions such as happiness, attraction, love and affection.
Another benefit is that touch also helps mum’s colostrum (the first milk that is full of nutrients, which protects baby) to flow more easily.
Mums are also likely to experience more positive breastfeeding and improved breast milk production.
So make sure that you supplement your baby massage sessions with lots of hugs and cuddles!
And while mum is reaping these benefits, massage and other forms of close physical contact with baby also has a powerful effect on their mental, emotional and physical development, both in the short term and long term.
Such physical contact helps to:
- Regulate baby’s heartbeat, breathing and body temperature.
- Relax and soothe baby, thus improving their sleep quality and quantity.
- Decrease crying time.
- Improve weight gain.
- Stimulate digestion and interest in breastfeeding.
- Reduce baby’s emotional stress.
- Promotes closer parental bonds with baby (as well as helps reduce mum’s risk of postnatal depression).
Premature babies (preemies) also benefit from infant massage, although it should be noted that the massage technique for preemies differs from that for full-term babies.
They stand to gain all the benefits stated above, including weight gain and reduction in stress hormone (cortisol) levels.
Preemies should not be massaged when they are on the ventilator or when they require oxygen.
Preterm baby massage should only be done when the baby is out of the woods and already stable.
Improving your bond
Baby massage is also a great way to improve the bond between parents and their baby.
However, avoid giving your baby a massage if he is feeling unwell or has a fever.
In the case of colic, baby massage has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms.
While you can give baby a massage at any time, it’s preferable to set a routine for her to look forward to, e.g. right after bath time or before you put her to bed at night.
You may also opt to use baby massage oil/lotion/cream.
However, before doing so, do consult your paediatrician first.
Baby massage should be delivered using a slightly firm, but gentle touch to convey a parent’s care and love to their little one.
Remember to take full advantage of this early chance to bond with your baby by starting right after his birth.
Don’t miss out on giving your baby a massage as it is a simple way for you to start bonding with your child!
ALSO READ: How to give your baby a relaxing massage
Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail is a consultant paediatrician and paediatric cardiologist. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only, and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.