The Benefits of Massage For Babies, Children and Parents

As parents we naturally share feelings of touch with our babies and children with loving hugs throughout the day or a soothing rub to make things better after they hurt themselves. Increasing this instinctive touch by offering a more structured body massage is a wonderful way to bond and has numerous physical and psychological benefits for both you and your child.

The main benefits of massage for babies and children can be summarised as follows:

Improves a child’s immune system
Helps regulate digestive, respiratory, and circulatory systems
Relieves discomfort from gas, colic, congestion, and teething
Decreases production of stress hormones
Children who receive massage are more sociable, co-operative, happier and less likely to be aggressive
Promotes deeper and uninterrupted sleep
Creates a stronger bond with caregiver

The benefits of massage are also extended to the giver as well as the receiver. Giving a massage is often just as relaxing and stress relieving for parents and provides a genuine period of quality time, in what can be busy days of other parenting and work duties.

The extra benefit for parents who offer their children regular massage is that they often want to return the favour. Having your four year old give you a back and shoulder rub is definitely a treat not to be missed!

So when can you start giving massage to babies? Well most experts agree that massage can be given from the newborn stage although they caution to keep it short (5 minutes or less) and very light to avoid over-stimulating their delicate system. Even premature babies can be given massage and various studies have shown the benefits of greater weight gain and a faster release from hospital.

Massage can be continued for children of all ages according to their needs and desires.

If they request you stop or are extra fidgety it is best to wait for another time when they are more receptive rather than force the issue. In most cases they will look forward to their special treatment and their ability to relax and be still will improve every time.

There are many courses and books on baby and infant massage and you may feel happier to start after a little training. However, the intuition of a parent is often all the experience you need. The basic points to remember for a massage session are as follows:

Choose a quiet time when you and your child can relax. After an evening bath is often an ideal time when the child is clean, comfortable and winding down for sleep.
Use an unscented vegetable-based oil such as sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil or coconut oil. Do not use commercial ‘Baby oil’ as this is a mineral oil and clogs pores.
Ensure the room is a warm temperature and your baby or child is well covered and comfortable.
Uncover one body part at a time, rub a little oil in your hands and then onto their the skin, softly stroking and gently kneading the entire area.
You can use your fingers, thumbs and palms to glide across the muscles yet be mindful of your pressure and aim to be soft and rhythmic in your movements. Watch your young baby carefully for any signs of discomfort and ask older children to give you verbal feedback on the pressure and speed.
Keep the main pressure flow of the massage in the direction of the heart.
Never work directly on the spine or on any recent injures or operations.
Enjoy it and make it fun!

Massaging your baby or child is a great gift that they will enjoy and prepares them for greater body awareness and health in later life. Hardworking parents should also ensure they receive regular massage sessions with their partner or a qualified therapist in order to stay healthy and balanced.

For more great articles on healthy pregnancy, natural birth and eco-parenting visit http://www.childofnatureblog.com

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