Making massage a regular part of child care from the earliest point can help fathers be more involved in their baby’s care.
Particularly in families where the father works during the day, most of the bonding opportunities in infancy go to the mother, as does much of the day-to-day work of child care. Massage can give Dad his own special time to bond with the new baby when he gets home–and give mum some time to herself. Massaging the baby can also make fathers feel like an integral part of developing their child’s health and well-being, as babies reap numerous health benefits from being massaged, aside from the stronger parental attachment it fosters.
Biology excludes fathers from the bonding experience of nursing a baby. Fathers of breast-fed babies can capture some of this bonding time through regular massage sessions with their babies.
In one study, fathers who massaged their babies showed increased levels of prolactin, called the “mothering hormone” since it induces nurturing desires and is necessary for women to nurse. The elevated hormone levels were associated with fathers feeling more competent and nurturing with their babies.
In another study, fathers who learned and regularly practised infant massage for as little as 15 minutes before bedtime for a month was shown to be more attuned and responsive to their baby’s needs. Teen fathers who massaged their babies were more likely to remain involved in their children’s lives than teen fathers who did not massage.
Fathers of all ages and in all family situations can benefit from the bonding opportunity of massaging their babies, and babies gain health and psychological well-being from having their fathers massage them.