Any touch is good for a baby, but infant massage is a particular set of techniques. Beyond caresses and pats, baby massage is a definite set aside time, like story time or bedtime.
The best time to massage babies are when they are in the quiet alert state, awake but not fussy or moving around much. Massage is relaxing for babies and can be used to help put the baby down for a nap or bedtime. Massaged babies tend to sleep longer and more deeply, providing much-needed respite for parents on top of the direct benefits for babies.
Babies who are massaged gain weight faster than their non-massaged counterparts, and massage can help release muscle tension from developing motor skills.
Massaging stimulates a baby’s skin and nervous system, encouraging babies’ neural development. Nerve cells myelinate faster in massaged babies, and the vagus nerve stimulation provided by massage helps digestion and lung function. The increased digestive function can be an immediate response, so be sure to always massage a baby in a loosely-applied nappy.
Colicky babies and their parents can find relief in massage. At times when the baby is not crying, use the edge of your hand to stroke firmly from the baby’s chin past the tummy, alternating hands and repeating the strokes several times. End with circular clockwise strokes on the tummy.
Beyond the physical benefits of massage for babies, being massaged fosters babies’ attachment to their parents, and parents’ attachment to their babies.