It’s World Mental Health Day 2019 which seems the perfect opportunity to highlight the far-reaching benefits of Infant Massage. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Baby Massage only offers benefits to the recipient but there is a wealth of benefits for parents also and they are literally at your fingertips.
Studies show that Infant Massage is linked to a reduction in the incidence of post-natal depression as well as resulting in better interactions between Mothers and Babies. Parents recognise improvements in areas such as baby's relaxation and sleep, as well as their own confidence as a parent; recognising their babies’ needs and feeling more relaxed themselves overall.
Research also shows us that baby massage is effective in increasing the Mother-Infant attachment and this has a lot to do with the hormone oxytocin. If you’ve recently made a tiny human, no doubt you’ve heard all about the wonderful benefits of oxytocin. Oxytocin peaks when we give birth, breastfeed and when we make love, but we also produce it through skin to skin contact and nurturing touch. Oxytocin is a major player in bonding with our babies as well as making us feel calm, happy and relaxed. It helps to regulate us when we feel stressed and the good news is that you and your baby produce plenty of it during Infant Massage.
Oxytocin is naturally produced by the hypothalamus in response to stimuli such as skin-to-skin contact which is available in abundance through Infant Massage and will be released in both baby and parents. It’s not only oxytocin - nurturing touch also increases levels of feel good hormones such dopamine, endorphins, serotonin and lowers stress hormones such as cortisol.
We know that there is no single risk factor to cause post-natal depression, however sudden changes to our birth plans or being unable to breastfeed are on the list, as is having a baby that is unwell, born early or with complications. As Infant Massage is suitable from birth and nurturing touch can benefit every baby, it can be a wonderful way to get the oxytocin flowing as well as an enjoyable way to incorporate every main element of bonding through a positive activity.
Infant Massage is not just for Mothers, research has found that up to 1 in 10 new Fathers can become depressed after having a baby. As well as the same hormonal benefits mentioned previously, massage increases prolactin in Fathers which promotes caregiving behaviour and, over time, directs the brain reorganisation to favour these behaviours. Fathers are always welcome to attend IAIM courses.
The importance of early relationships and healthy brain development will greatly benefit infant mental health too, we'll save that for a future blog but it's worth mentioning given that infants turn in to adults.
A quality Infant Massage programme such as the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM) programme is completely baby-led and cue based. On our courses you learn how to identify your baby’s verbal and non-verbal language (cues) and how to respond accordingly. Recognising your baby’s cues can help to raise your confidence and self esteem as a parent by gaining a better understanding of how your baby is feeling and what they are trying to tell you. Babies in turn learn all about empathy, respect, love and feel valued.
As important as the physical and emotional benefits of our programme, Infant Massage classes provide a community and help to reduce isolation. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a baby, yet parents can often feel lonely and unsupported. IAIM Instructors are trained to facilitate their groups to ensure the best possible connection not only between parent and baby but for the group as a whole. We never offer advice or judgment, we are there to help you to learn from each other and create a safe and welcoming space to share experiences, reassure or relate. Discussion time is as important as all other aspects of our classes.
We understand that being a new parent is not always easy and we passionately believe that nurturing touch is there for both you and your baby.
Photo Credit – Sadie Wild Photography captures our classes
Connected Babies are proud to support PANDAS Foundation UK pre and postnatal illness charity
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