You know the benefits of cuddling, but did you know that your baby can benefit from a full-body massage? The new trend in motherhood is not only therapeutic, but there is research to suggest that massage is an important part of caring for babies in the early days, with long-term impacts on health and development. “Baby massage, in essence, is communicating with your baby through touch,” says Justina Perry, founder of MamaBabyBliss, a not-for-profit organization that supports women throughout pregnancy and motherhood.
While infants cannot understand words, they do understand touch, she explains, and because affectionate touch and rhythmic movement are among the first forms of communication between babies and their parents, it can be very helpful in fostering a bond. “Baby massage is a wonderful way to create that very special, magical one-to-one time, just for you and your baby,” Perry says.
But the advantages don’t stop there. Studies show baby massage has various health benefits as well, from improving sleep to easing teething pains and tummy troubles like colic. The stroking positively affects infant hormones, such as serotonin, reducing fussiness and controlling stress, and plenty of research has linked skin-to-skin contact with improved neurodevelopment. While more research is needed, according to the Mayo Clinic, massage involving moderate pressure may also promote muscle growth.
Getting started is simple. “You don’t need any fancy equipment,” Perry says. “You just literally need your hands, your touch, and some quiet time with you and your baby.” In the video above, you’ll learn how to massage your baby from head to toe. The four-step process starts with a warm up followed by a chest massage designed to help with the respiratory system. The third stage is the tummy routine to support the digestive system, and the final stage is the leg massage, which stimulates oxytocin (also known as the cuddle hormone).