Benefits and Risks of Infant Massage

Infant massage has been becoming very popular not only among celebrities but with the "average Joe’s" as well. Even though it’s popularit…

Many adults have been on the receiving end of a massage. How great does it feel when your tired and achy body gets to relax? Adults go for massages not only for physical but also emotional and mental relaxation. After being in work or running after kids all day, most adults deserve a good massage.

What about infants, though? Do they really need a massage? What do they really need to relax from, aren’t their lives relaxing enough? While an infant massage may be relaxing it is also a great bonding experience between mothers and babies or fathers and babies.

1. What Is Infant Massage?

Infant massage has been becoming very popular not only among celebrities but with the “average Joe’s” as well. Even though it’s popularity has been rising in the United States of America over the past thirty years, infant massage is in no way new to other countries. As we find new information about this infant relaxation technique, we find that mother’s have been massaging babies for hundreds of years.

Infant massage is exactly what it sounds like… a massage for an infant. While parents alone can attend to the baby during the massage, there are also certified infant massage therapists. Babies are usually massaged in a diaper, alone. This allows for more skin to skin contact, which studies show to be beneficial for the baby.

Babies need to be in a very relaxed mood and for optimal results should not be cranky, overtired, hungry, or irritable. Mothers, fathers, or whomever is attending to the baby should use a baby friendly oil such as baby oil. After rubbing a small amount in between the palms, the adult then starts from the head and sweeps downward towards the face and neck. This happens in a cupping motion. The adult uses gentle touches and massage techniques massaging downward towards the arms, tummy, legs, and feet.

Many times if the child has issues the adult with show special attention to that body part. If the baby is colic, for instance, the adult may take care of the tummy more so than any other body part. Using two fingers, the adult will use a circular motion on the stomach. This allows for gas bubbles to decrease. The adult may also bend the knees up towards the belly allowing excess air to release.

The massage techniques may include Indian milking methods, Chinese pediatric strokes, and Swedish massage methods.

2. Who are the Best candidates for Infant Massage?

The best candidates for an infant massage, for obvious reasons, would be babies. As with any kind of natural therapy or healing technique, one must take care as to who actually goes for an infant massage. Infants should be in the best health possible.

The infant’s pediatrician should be consulted about the massage. At this time benefits can be discussed as well as potential risks involved. Although, the infant may have a health issue he or she may still be able to partake in an infant massage. As we see with the benefits, an infant massage has to potential to help alleviate some infant health symptoms.

3. What are the Benefits?

Studies have shown that human touch can help a child grow and develop at a faster and healthier rate. Many doctors now persuade mothers, fathers, and caregivers to participate in Kangaroo Care when a baby is born prematurely. Even when the baby is born at a normal delivery date, many parents still take part in Kangaroo Care which is skin-to-skin contact.

Infant massage, like Kangaroo Care, involves skin-to-skin contact and human touch. Benefits of infant massage include: * Baby feels more at ease and more relaxed * Decrease in gas and relief of colic * Studies show an increase in weight gain * Studies show that the immune system of a baby improves * Communication increases between caregiver and baby * There is evidence of improved brain growth * Improves baby’s sleep patterns

Evidence shows that the benefits are not only for the babies but for the caregivers as well. Infant massage is shown to improve the bonding experience as well as relieve stress for parents. This is especially true for mothers who have been diagnosed with post-partum depression.

4. What are the Risks?

While no risks have been shown regarding infant massage if done properly, there has also been little study done about the risks possibly involved. The only risk really shown at this point is the fear that the infant massage will result in overstimulation of the infant. Benefits are shown to hold the upper hand, though when evaluating the risks.

Whoever is attending to the baby during the massage must take care not to massage too hard or vigorously as this can harm the baby. If the mother, father, or caregiver does not feel comfortable with the infant massage then he or she can have a licensed infant massage therapist to tend to the baby. Another option is for the parents and caregivers to take classes or lessons which can help them learn the infant massage techniques.

The information in the article is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate health care provider.