A Massage for Baby?
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN SPAIN
ANITA, a young mother from Nigeria, bathes her baby and then carefully massages her. Both mother and baby thoroughly enjoy themselves. “This is a traditional practice for Nigerian mothers in caring for their babies,” explains Anita. “My own mother used to massage me and my brothers. Massage is an excellent way to tone up a baby’s muscles and make it feel relaxed. While massaging my baby, I sing and talk to her, and she gurgles and smiles back. It is a wonderful experience!”
Infant massage is common in many lands, and it is becoming popular in some Western countries. According to the Spanish Association for Infant Massage, a massage is a subtle, tender, and pleasant technique that enables a parent to communicate physically and emotionally with the baby. It includes a series of gentle yet firm strokes of the baby’s feet and legs as well as the back, chest, stomach, arms, and face.
What does a baby get from a massage? Above all, a feeling of love and tenderness. A newborn not only needs to be fed but also needs to receive parental affection. Since the sense of touch develops early in life, gentle massaging by the mother or father communicates this love in a tangible way. Much information—physical and emotional—can be transmitted to a baby. Massaging can thus help to cement a bond of affection between parents and their baby right from birth.
Apart from expressing love, massage may teach a baby to relax, which may contribute to longer sound sleep and less stress. Massage may also help to tone muscles as well as regulate the circulatory, digestive, and respiratory systems. Some people claim that the infant’s immune system benefits too. And because the baby’s senses of touch, sight, and sound are stimulated, massage may also encourage memory and learning.
Some hospitals have looked into the value of infant massage as well. For example, one study found that premature babies who were massaged could leave the hospital up to seven days earlier than those who were not massaged, and they had an increased weight gain of up to 47 percent compared with the latter.
Evidently, adults are not the only ones who benefit from a good rubdown! Of course, for babies a massage is more than just a rub. It is love expressed by warm hands and gentle fingers, along with a big smile.