New parents can usually be found cradling their newborns while performing a combined "shush-rock-bounce"—a time-tested maneuver for quelling a newborn’s fussing. However, though perhaps less of a classic move, infant massage can offer multiple advantages for fussy babies and parents alike.
(On just a quarter-acre of land, you can produce fresh, organic food for a family of four—year-round. Rodale's The Backyard Homestead shows you how; get your copy today.)
“Babies often experience discomfort and varying degrees of fussiness until they are further along in their development,” explains pediatric sleep consultant Erica Desper, who often works with parents navigating the confusing and sleep deprived first weeks of their babies’ lives, when young digestive systems and circadian rhythms are still just forming. “Massage offers parents a way to provide their baby with relief as well as supports that developmental process," says Desper.
According to research, says Desper, both infants and parents benefit greatly from skin to skin contact. This can be particularly helpful advice for fathers working on their attachment with their infant. “More than a brief hug with clothing between them, massage is more of a prolonged bonding experience or ‘conversation’ between the two that involves a greater amount of skin contact and thus more thorough nerve stimulation and greater benefits,” Desper explains.
So while kisses and cuddles are essential to building strong physical bonds, massaging your baby goes further to create an even more therapeutic effect, and the proof isn’t just anecdotal. Studies have shown that infant massage stimulates the nervous, circulatory, respiratory, and immune systems. Here are five good reasons to try infant massage—and how to do it: