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Bonding through infant massage

Massage helps infants relax and bond with their parents, says Shipra A.S.

Paradoxically, for new parents, the first one-two years after the arrival of their bundle of joy are the most trying, mixed with moments of elation, frustrating tribulations and sleepless nights. Since the baby did not come with an instruction manual, it’s up to parents to figure out what works and what doesn’t. But if there is one sure-shot way of bonding with your newborn, it is by way of relaxing infant massages. This centuries-old global tradition stimulates and relaxes newborns, apart from boosting blood circulation, immunity, and brain development.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Perinatal Education says that massaging your infant helps reduce “paternal stress” while simultaneously enabling males to take on the role of care-givers. The study notes that in the first few months of life, touch is used more often than hearing, sight, or smell as a way to learn about the physical world and to develop close, meaningful relationships. According to another study (2012) published in the Asian Nursing Research, massages play an important role in increasing mother-child attachment and could help the former overcome post-partum blues. Moreover, with infants often slipping into sound sleep after a soothing massage, it gives new mothers some time to rest and recuperate.

Unsurprisingly, child experts are unanimous that massages should be part of an infant’s daily routine.

Massage benefits

Stimulates growth hormones

Improves cognitive development and digestion

Boosts the immune system

Stimulates blood circulation

Helps parent-child bonding

The Preparation

The massage should be administered in a warm room on a clean rubber mat or towel. The ideal time for a massage would be before or after a bath. A massage in the evening followed by a warm bath will help your infant enjoy a deep, long sleep. Natural oils such as coconut, olive or almond should be used. If the massage is delivered after a bath, use lighter oils, and less of it, and ensure its a quick, warm one.

Get started

Place your infant on a clean mat or towel.

Begin by gently massaging the feet. Then hold one foot in one hand, grip the leg with the other and move your hand from ankle to knee, then thighs. Thereafter, hold the leg at 90 degrees, press downwards lightly and roll it. Gently press with your thumb and hand from thighs to feet.

Move on to the abdomen. Use your palm and fingers to make circular movements from the ribs to the lower abdomen. Move your fingers clockwise in short, circular movements.

Now, to the chest. Holding the infant on both sides, slide your fingers from the centre of the ribs towards the sides. Repeat several times.

Next, address arms and hands. Start with the upper arm, sliding downwards to the palms and fingertips. Repeat several times. Then use your thumbs to massage the palm.

Its time for the back massage. Use your thumbs to make circular movements along the spine. Then press gently and massage from the top of the back to the bottom, and then from bottom to top.

The face also needs a massage, but be gentle. Use upward movements from the neck, followed by the cheeks and outer sides of the eyes. Use side-to-side strokes for the forehead.

The article was published in print edition of ParentsWorld October 2017 issue.

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