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Baby Massage: A Beginner’s Guide

In today’s world of frenetic schedules and fast-paced lifestyles, take a moment out of your day to connect, laugh, and relax with your baby. Make a home spa for you and your little one by setting aside time each day for a baby massage. Baby massage provides a meaningful connection between you and your child, and has countless positive health effects for you both.

According to Dr. Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Center at the University of Miami, infant massage is known to contribute to the development of secure, self-confident children. “. . . [M]assaged infants are more active, gain weight faster and become more efficient,” she writes.

Dr. Field’s research also reveals that baby massage greatly benefits mothers, too—especially those suffering from postpartum depression. Dr. Field’s studies show that babies born to depressed mothers have higher than normal stress hormones, demonstrate few facial expressions, and experience lack of sleep and appetite loss. But when depressed mothers in Dr. Field’s test groups massaged their babies once a day for two weeks, the mother’s reported that their babies were easier to comfort and more playful. Tests showed that the mothers’ stress hormone levels decreased and they also reported feeling more responsive to people around them as well.

Getting Ready

To ensure that your baby enjoys her massage, follow these tips before getting started:

  • Try to practice baby massage only when you have at least a half-hour of free time. During your massage session, focus your attention solely on you and your baby; turn off the ringer on the phone, play some soothing music, and position yourself in a comfortable part of your home where the two of you can relax.
  • Perform your massage at a comfortable temperature. “Choose a warm room (at least 75ºF/ 23.9ºC) without any drafts,” writes Elizabeth Pantley in her book, Gentle Baby Care. During the cooler months, steer clear of windows and doorways. You may wish to keep your baby covered with a blanket during the massage, only leaving out whatever parts you are massaging. In warmer weather, stay away from bright, sunlight areas, and find cool spots in which to massage your baby. Don’t be afraid to leave her just in her diaper (or strip her down to her birthday suit, and position her over an open diaper in case of an accident)—if it is hot outside, fewer clothes will help your baby feel more comfortable during your massage.

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