Who doesn’t like a good massage? Nothing takes away life’s stress like someone kneading your muscles and getting the kinks out. Why would babies feel any different? They love being massaged and feeling their parent’s hands on their little bodies, not to mention all the undivided attention. Infant massage has been gaining popularity over the years and with good reason. Here are some of the benefits of the activity we learnt from Keziah Wamaitha, a Certified Instructor of Infant Massage (CIMI) and nurse at a gynaecologist clinic in Nairobi.
Promotes bonding and attachment with the baby
Touch is a potent element in human bonding. So is communication, both verbal and non-verbal and prolonged eye-contact. Infant massage encompasses all of these aspects. “Incorporating these into one’s time with the baby through infant massage creates a familiarity. A mother better understands her child, while the baby feels valued. Trust and confidence develops among them,” says Keziah. “Studies have shown that the positive effects of bonding through infant massage last well into a child’s adult lives. In cases where there was delayed bonding due to medical complications, premature birth, post-natal depression and the like, infant massage can make up for time lost.”
Relieves common discomforts
Any mother will tell you that it is not just a baby who suffers through a colic episode. Some will even go as far as to call it traumatising. And while some discomforts such as gas and constipation are not as gruelling, it will still come as a relief to parents that infant massage can smooth out even the best of them.“A mother’s touch is calming to the baby, when babies are crying they can get even more worked up and cry uncontrollably, but massage can help tone this down and calm the baby. It also distracts from the pain in the tummy. Massaging also offers relief by helping the intestines to move along the gas, giving instant relief when it is expelled,” says Keziah. But what about those times that the stomach is too rigid with gas to press? Keziah suggests to place the baby on his or her back, lift their little legs by the ankles and move them around in circles as if they were riding a bicycle. “It’s quite effective.”
Stimulates circulatory and digestive systems
Just as with a regular massage, infant massage improves general blood flow. According to Keziah: “It increases circulation which is good for the muscles and relieving any soreness. It also stimulates the lymphatic system which increases immunity.”
Improves sleep patterns
A sleepy baby is a happy mother, but even so, one doesn’t need to have experienced motherhood to know how erratic babies’ sleep patterns are. This is where infant massage can come in handy. Keziah says kneading and squeezing their tiny bodies is a great way to get babies sleepy. “The relaxation also makes them sleep better and longer.”
Increased flexibility and muscle tone
“Growing pains and muscular tension are common for babies. The growth spurt that usually kicks in at around three months to six months is especially common for making babies irritable. This is the time to ensure constant massaging. Not only does it relieve the discomfort, it also stimulates muscular development and growth,” she advises.
Gives exclusive daddy-baby time
Many fathers often feel like they have nothing to do after the baby is born, as mums dominate feeding and sleeping patterns and are often more in-tune to their baby’s needs. “Massage gives fathers a chance to connect and interact with their child on a deeper level than the usual day-to-day contact might provide. It’s encouraged that they take a class too,” says Nancy. “In fact, even the baby’s older siblings can learn a few techniques of massage from their parents. It’s a wonderful way to get everyone involved in nurturing the young one.”
Baby Massage classes for Mums and Dads are held at the Nurturing Touch Wellness Centre in Nairobi. Ph. 0788381049 to book.