Infant massage has many proven benefits. Heather Maynard, LMT, NCBTMB, a Certified Baby’s First Massage Instructor, and Certified massage therapist in Wheaton, Illinois listed some of the advantages of infant massage as helping the newborns heal from the labor and birth process, helping premature infants gain weight, helping infants digest their food better, stimulating the immune system- improving overall health, massage also stimulates the central nervous system which may improve muscle tone, coordination and aide in developing nero-pathways, and it helps soothe fussy or colicky babies.
Babies are not the only recipient of massage benefits. Caregivers also benefit greatly from massaging their infants. Massage helps caregivers tune into their babies needs and cues, promotes bonding, and eases symptoms of post partum depression.
Babies can receive their first massage, as long as they medically stable, the same day they are born. More and more often NICUs are utilizing massage as a way to help parents be involved with their babies care and gain confidence caring for their new baby in addition to other benefits. It can also be introduced later- there is not an open and shut window during which massage may be introduced.
In terms of timing baby’s first massage, a caregiver should wait until the baby is in a quiet alert state and in a warm environment so the baby does not become chilled. The warm environment also promotes relaxation. The massage should be relaxed and not rushed. Baby and caregiver should be tuned in to each other and the caregiver should be responsive to babies needs. This quiet attention promotes trust and bonding between the infant and the caregiver. If the infant has other needs that require attention those should be met first before beginning the massage. If the baby becomes fussy or cries the massage can be continued later or tried again another day. It is important for the baby to associate a massage with positive feelings as opposed to a negative experience.
It is never too early to begin massage as long as the baby is stable; also it is never too late for an individual to be introduced to massage.