- Karen Stoner, LMT
4 Benefits of Infant Massage for Parents
1. Helps with bonding (especially for the non-birthing partner)
Short Answer: While it seems like the mother almost automatically has an unspoken bond with the baby she delivers, that isn’t always the case, plus the non-birthing partner can feel a little left out if mom does have a natural bond. Massaging baby can help build this bond with either parent.
More details: Bonding with a new baby can seem like something that is completely natural and needs no help. While most of the time, there is a natural bond between mother and baby, since baby is used to mom's voice and sensing her emotions. But sometimes that bond doesn't form immediately, especially if something happens during the birth that may disrupt that bond forming quickly or easily. Likewise, the non-birthing parent may have a more difficult time forming a sense of trust and a bond with the baby since that person is likely completely new to the baby. Massage allows the baby to learn that they are being cared for and taken care of, and therefore allowing the parent doing the massage into their world of trust and creating the opportunity to bond.
2. Helps learn baby’s cues
Short answer: Is that smirk happy or gas? Does that cry mean baby is hungry or sleepy? Giving baby a massage can help you learn what baby’s reactions mean so you can communicate and understand each other better.
More details: When I teach infant massage, I always tell parents that even though I'm a trained professional, they are the best ones to actually do massage on their babies. This is because they know best what their baby's reactions, faces, sounds, and movements mean. Massaging baby regularly helps parents learn their likes, dislikes and tolerances so their understanding and communication skills with baby are strong.
3. Provides another “tool” in the “parenting toolbox”
Short answer: We’ve all heard the line, “there is no instruction manual for having kids”. While that is true, parents can have different “tools” such as routines for bedtime, ways to identify and handle illness, and more. Massage provides another tool to help parents understand and help their baby.
More details: Every parent has different ways that they understand, communicate with, and manage their children. And every method works with that particular family's situation, culture, and methods. No one way is better than another, and every parent needs to work with their children in the ways that work best for them. This is why there is no "universal" method (or "instruction manual") for raising children. So even though there are no defined rules, parents learn and develop their own tools for things, and massage is another tool that can be used to soothe and calm, play, build a routine, or identify and help illness or discomfort. Every little item of help a new parent can use is useful.
4. Helps increase a sense of confidence
Short answer: Being a new parent is filled with moments of uncertainty, but massaging baby regularly can create a feeling of calm and confidence that you are doing something good for baby, that you are aware of their needs, and they are learning that they are cared for and loved.
More details: Even if a new baby entering the family isn't the first new baby, every child is different, so many new parents constantly have an underlying fear that they aren't doing something right, are missing something, or worry that things won't be as similar to the other children. New parents are very in the dark as far as worrying about every cry, every schedule change, and more until they and baby learn each other and get into the groove. Having massage as something that can be used to learn about baby, help baby, and give baby a sense of happiness, stress reduction, and love, in turn gives parents a boost of confidence in their abilities as parents who are doing all they can for their baby.