By Michelle Fletcher
Massage is no longer the sole refuge of overworked athletes and office workers suffering from carpal tunnel; the littlest in our lives are now, too, reaping the many benefits of massage.
When applied by certified massage therapists or trained parents, infant massage provides many positive benefits for both parents and children.
Infant massage can:
- Enhance blood circulation
- Stimulate the nervous system
- Promote relaxation
- Decrease the production of stress hormones
- Relieve discomfort associated with:
The University of Miami School of Medicine and the Nova Southeastern University have been the flagship institutions in researching the effects of massage in infants. Their research suggests that touch is as important to infants and children as eating and sleeping. Therapy can trigger many physiological changes that help infants and children grow and develop; for example, massage can stimulate nerves in the brain which facilitate food absorption, resulting in faster weight gain. It also lowers levels of stress hormones, resulting in improved immune function. When infant massage therapy is properly applied to pre-term infants, they can respond with increased weight gains, improved developmental scores, and earlier discharge from the hospital.
Infant massage also provides benefits for those giving the massage. Parents gain an increased awareness of the baby and his or her needs, enhancing the bonding process between child and caregiver. Giving massages can also increase new parents’ confidence in their parenting skills.
In the advent of postnatal depression, a common occurrence among new mothers, both child and parent are in danger of suffering long-term adverse consequences in their relationship and in the infant’s development. Alleviating postnatal depression through massage techniques can not only physically aids the infant, but also heal both individuals emotionally.
The benefits of massage on both infants and their parents are overwhelmingly positive, with research indicating that infant massage is increasingly recognized as a legitimate health care treatment.
1 Field, T. Massage therapy for infants and children. Developmental and Behavioral Psychology. 1995 Apr;16(2):105-11.
2 Beachy, JM. Premature infant massage in the NICU. Neonatal Network. 2003 May-June;22(3):39-45.
3 Onozawa K., et al. Infant massage improves mother-infant interaction for mothers with postnatal depression. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2001 Mar;63(1-3):201-7.
4 Beachy 201.