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Benefits of Infant Massage

Snuggles n Bubbles

March 14th, 2020

In today’s society, the idea of infant massages seems quite new. In fact, most people have never heard of infant massages. The truth is that massaging infants has been part of cultural practices for millennia and is an important component of a baby’s daily routines. These cultures also consider touch as an important form of physical and spiritual development for the child.

It was not until the 1970s when Vimala McClure (founder of Internal Association of Infant Massage) introduced the practice in the United States. While living in an Indian orphanage , she noticed that a 12-year-old girl would go around massaging all the babies. The babies were lacking proper nutrients, but seem to be blooming. She concluded that was a direct result of the massages.

“Massage ‘works’ by instilling fearlessness, hardening bone structure, enhancing movement and limb coordination, and increasing weight.” Social Science & Medicine

Society is now slowly transforming back towards a more holistic lifestyle. This involves more techniques for natural childbirth and the use of midwives. Dr Frédéric Leboyer, a French physician and leader of natural childbirths movement also help popularize the concept in North American with his book, “Indian Art of Baby Massage.”

According to the International Association of Infant Massage, the benefits can be categorized into the following four groups:

  1. Interaction

  2. Stimulation

  3. Relief

  4. Relaxation

Touch is a form of interaction. The research conducted by the Mayo Clinic has shown that intentional touch can help neurologic behavioural and cognitive benefits to a developing infant. The benefits can range from helping the baby relax and sleep to regulating the release and control of stress hormones. Research has also indicated the benefits of massages towards weight gain for premature babies.

Sleep improvements: Tiffany Field, PhD, at Touch Research Institutes conducted a study with infants and toddlers that had sleep problems. Her research concluded that when parents massaged their babies for 15 minutes before bedtime each day for a month, there were fewer sleep delays.

Improvements in the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract: Ample research has shown that various massage techniques can help digestion and release gas that causes distress for both babies and parents as result of constipation.

Stimulates growth hormone for weight gain in underweight babies: A study conducted by Doctor Field found that preemies who were massaged three times a day for 15 minutes gained 47%more weight and left the hospital an average of six days earlier than those who were not massaged.

As we move towards more natural solutions to our everyday problems, massaging infants has been proven to provide many benefits and reduce various symptoms. The movement has been gaining globally for decades and is beginning to take a hold and blossom in Canada. We have all experienced that feeling of restlessness and built-up body tension; when the body is craving a soothing massage. Turn out, our younger ones could use one too.

"When you give your baby a massage, you're actually stimulating her central nervous system," Tiffany Field, PhD

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