Massaging newborns is an age-old tradition in India. It is believed to be therapeutic for the baby, along with being instrumental in the development of the baby’s body. So what actually entails baby massage? Well, it can be any kind of gentle and rhythmic stroking of the baby’s body by the parents or the caregiver or a massage expert, generally by using oil or any kind of cream. Like most baby rituals, baby massage also comes with its fair share of debate over its effectiveness.
Out of all the five senses, the sensation of touch is believed to be the most developed one at the time of birth. No wonder, massaging is seen to be an effective way of connecting with the newborn.
- It is believed to soothe the baby and stimulate the production of the oxytocin hormone in the baby and the parents. The oxytocin hormone is a feel-good hormone that nurtures the feeling of warmth, assurance, and love between the baby and the parents – thus helping in bonding the new-born.
- It is also believed that massage tricks the brain to produce more of serotonin, another feel-good chemical and less of cortisol, a stress-response hormone.
As a result, through the massage, the baby’s heart rate and breathing slows down and he finds comfort and relaxation.
- It helps in soothing the nerves of the baby, making him/her less fussy and grumpy. The baby sleeps better and has a more mild and amiable temperament.
- On a more physical level, baby massage is believed to address the baby’s teething troubles, soothing his/her nerve sensations, easing his/her tummy troubles and helping in boosting muscle development.
- For premature babies, this is even more important as regular massage is shown to help improve weight gain, achieve a more stable heart rate, have a calmer response mechanism to stress and pain and ensure a more stable brain activity.
- On a psychological level, massaging one’s baby also allows parents who may be suffering from post-natal depression uplift their mood. The reassuring touches during the massage go a long way in cementing a special connection between the parents and child.