Infant massage has been documented as a cultural activity in families, passed down from mother to daughter for centuries. From Bali to Nigeria, mothers taught the traditional massage routines to their daughters as a means to facilitate nourishment for their infants. In 1976, Fredrick Leboyer published a book that documented the flowing rhythms of the traditional Indian art of infant massage. The book was called Loving Hands, and in this book Leboyer describes this art as “a silent dialogue of love between a mother and her baby. Some kind of ritual or ballet-slowness, controlled strength, tenderness, and dignity.” There have been several books written on this subject and research is still being conducted to see if there are long lasting benefits for children who continue to receive massage throughout their lives.
There are many ways that babies and families benefit from infant massage that research and or anecdotal evidence has proven.
There are four main categories of benefits for Infant Massage
Interaction: promotes bonding, secure attachment, develop trust and confidence, and also the use of verbal/non verbal communication.
Stimulation: several body systems such as immune, circulatory, digestive (great for colic, constipation), hormonal, muscular development/growth, and also mind and body awareness.
Relief: cramps, teething, growing pains/muscular tension, gas and colic.
Relaxation: improved sleep patterns, reduction of stress hormones, increased flexibility and muscle tone
When conducting an infant massage communication with the infant is vital. The baby must be willing to engage and participate in the massage. Unlike adults who at least have some idea about what a massage entails, babies do not know! Eye contact, cooing, smiling, and an alert connection are signs of engagement. The people who should be facilitating the infant massages should be the primary caregivers (i.e. parents/guardians) and a doctor should be consulted prior to administering infant massage. It is possible for babies to become over stimulated during the massage which is another reason why communication is so important. Contraindications for infants are very similar with adults (i.e. fever, skin conditions, the like). Infancy massage sessions typically run anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes in length. Massage for your children throughout their life is possible. As the child grows the session times can run a little longer and become more in-depth.
The company Gaiam has a wonderful “How To” DVD for infant massage called Massage Practice for Infants which I was introduced to while attending massage school. Michelle Kluck is certified in Infant Massage and takes you step by step through the safe and effective techniques used in infant massage. The DVD is roughly 40 minutes in length and very easy to follow.
Before conducting infant massages at home please consult your pediatrician.
Massage Practice by Mark F. Beck
by Jennifer Roldan LMP