Infant massage: More beneficial than you think

By: Anna Sadra Jun 13, 2012

What are the benefits of infant massage?

Issues like constipation, gas, and colic have all been shown to improve through the use of infant massage techniques.

While nearly all of us know that a nice massage can help to relax our mind and help with muscle pain and stiffness, one aspect of it that many aren't aware of is the fact that infant massage is a growing sub-type of massage that seems to offer several excellent benefits. Preterm and full term infants may get very real benefits if they receive mild massage treatment. This practice has been going on for thousands of years in Asia, Africa, and Europe but is only now becoming a commonplace form of medical treatment in the west as more and more studies reveal its advantages.

Newborn babies have a lot of issues, and the simple fact is that there are few things we can do to help them with their discomfort. Issues like constipation, gas, and colic have all been shown to improve through the use of infant massage techniques. And other issues like stress related behavior, respiratory issues, and more can also be helped with massage. Better sleep patterns and improved circulation are other potential benefits from performing infant massage on a baby, making the technique well worth looking into when you're trying to help your child.

Preterm babies have it even rougher, with all the problems normal babies experience along with the issue of low birth weight. In addition to the benefits listed above, studies have shown that infant massage may actually help premature babies gain weight. A 2007 study in Infant Behavior and Development used three fifteen minute massages at regular times over the course of five days. Licensed massage therapists performed the massages and at the end of the study the babies who received the massage exhibited fewer stress behaviors. A 2005 study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that weight gain was a possible result of infant massage in preterm infants.

Of course, it's important that you don't actually just toss your baby onto their belly and start rubbing away at them. Infant massage has its own unique challenges and techniques and is a very different type of massage than standard massages are. Many massage therapists are beginning to utilize infant massage in their practices to give babies the same level of care they provide for their adult clients. It's important that proper pressure be used because too little pressure will likely only irritate the child whereas too much pressure could be painful and even harmful to the child's well-being.

There are a few basic areas that an infant massage will focus on. Whereas an adult massage often works the neck and back, these aren't normally problem areas for infants. The legs, however, are one area that will need care. Start by supporting the infant's foot in your hand and then working from the thigh down in a kind of milking motion, going from buttock to heel and back again. Be sure to use the right amount of gentle pressure. This can increase circulation and muscle tension in a child's legs.

The tummy is one special area that really needs to be focused on during infant massage. Start at the center of the child's chest with both hands and then push out towards its sides along the rib cage, much like smoothing the pages of a newspaper onto a table. Use a heart shaped motion as you do this and take care not to use too much pressure. The face of a child is often sore from suckling, and using the thumbs to gently massage the upper lip, lower lip, and cheeks can help soothe these muscles greatly. Put plainly, infant massage can help a child's health and well-being tremendously.

Anna Sadra is a Registered Massage Therapist, Laser technician and Medical Esthetician with over 12 years of experience in the wellness industry. Anna enjoys being able to use her extensive knowledge to really help her clients achieve the results they are searching for. She enjoys spending time with family, friends and learning more about health, skin care & fitness.