Benefits of Infant Massage: Part One
The benefits of skin to skin contact with your baby at birth has long been understood, and is often encouraged immediately after birth to allow those first bonding moments between mother and child. This wonderful experience can continue to be nurtured through infant massage. Gifting your baby or child a massage on a regular basis has many, MANY benefits.
Read on to find out more…….
Strengthens the immune system
Studies have shown that massage increases the number and function of white blood cells and natural killer cells. Both of these are an integral part of the immune system. Massage can also reduce the levels of stress hormones in the body which leads to an optimal immune system. This is particularly useful in the infants’ early weeks and years before all of their immunisations are administered, and also imperative for children who attend child care facilities where their immune systems are constantly being challenged.
A study was performed whereby asthmatic children were given a 20 minute massage at bedtime by their parents for one month. At the end of the one month period children were able to breathe better (based on daily peak flow meter readings) and had fewer asthma attacks. Additionally, specific techniques like tapping and percussion to the chest wall helps to break up and dislodge mucus, so it can be more easily coughed out of the body. This can be useful for conditions that affect the lungs like cystic fibrosis.
Increases blood and lymphatic circulation
The lymphatic exercise sequence, taught in infant massage classes, is believed to provide children of all ages many benefits including:
Lymphatic drainage - The lymphatic system works to drain away excess fluid from the tissues, clean out the contaminants (ie. waste products of metabolism and germs) and return the ‘cleaned’ fluid or water back to the bloodstream. By performing this role, it prevents dangerous fluid build-up, known as swelling or oedema, as well as preventing disease.
Enhance coordination- the cross-lateral movements where the limbs are crossed over from one side of the body to another, are believed to encourage communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, leading to a higher level of coordination both in fine motor skills (eg. using a fork and writing) and gross motor skills, like crawling or walking.
Providing a fun game for parent and child- the lymphatic exercise sequence can be performed at any time of day where stimulation is appropriate, songs can be sung as part of the movement.
Strengthening the immune system because the lymphatic system is responsible for producing immune cells in the body (as above).
Reduces stress and enhances mood
Studies have shown reduced salivary cortisol levels in both parents and children after performing massage. Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones in the body related to the ‘fight or flight’ response. If cortisol is high over a long period of time it can have many negative health effects (anxiety, depression, digestive issues, sleep problems, impaired memory and concentration). Infant massage is a great long-term solution to help manage stress hormone levels for both parent and child. Studies have also, shown that a deficiency in dopamine can result in feeling sad and/or anxious. Dopamine is both a hormone and neurotransmitter. As a hormone it acts to induce feelings of euphoria. As a neurotransmitter, it allows communication between the nerve cells. What a great way to help ensure a happier baby!!
Relaxation of skeletal muscles
As adults, many of us will seek a massage when we have a sore back or simply need to relax. Children and babies are no different and they use their muscles just as much as we do. From postural muscles and learning to hold up their heads, to rolling over, crawling, walking then running, little people are always on the go and will benefit from having their muscles lengthened and stretched through massage.
These are just a few of the benefits of infant massage. Our next blog/newsletter will continue on with more benefits including improving sleep, enhancing cognitive and motor development, as well as benefits for wind, colic, constipation and reflux.
Book in an individual lesson or group class today to learn infant massage for yourself. Group classes consist of two one hour sessions, run over two consecutive weeks.