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What Are the Benefits of Infant Massage?

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

Whitney Sankovsky has been working with babies, children, and their families for the entirety of her professional life. For many years she worked as an early childhood intervention specialist, educating parents on age appropriate development and activities to support and nurture their child's growth. To enhance her ability to support parents, she went on to train as an infant massage instructor and then became a certified baby yoga and developmental movement facilitator. 


“Through this 15 year journey, it became evident that parent and baby bonding forms the foundation for future positive infant mental health and development outcomes.  Therefore, my current parent and baby wellness classes are a culmination of all my experiences, education, and passion for working with this population. The theme of connection is the guiding pillar of all of my classes and workshops,” Whitney said. 


Portrait of Whitney Sankovsky sitting in a yoga pose smiling
Whitney Sankovsky

The benefits of infant massage: 


Beyond helping ease the transition from womb to world through nurturing touch, massage can provide relief from the most common baby ailments such as teething, sleeping, congestion and digestion. Gentle strokes from the loving hands of a caregiver let the baby know their woes are acknowledged, while lowering stress levels, heart rate and overriding pain points through touch.


Infant massage also puts a baby’s body and brain in an optimal state for growth and development. Massage stimulates the circulatory and digestive systems, aiding in the absorption of nutrients crucial for optimal growth.  


Whitney demonstrates an infant massage. Baby is laying back to floor as their legs are massaged.
Whitney demonstrates an infant massage. 

In addition to the physiological benefits, infant massage has been linked to improved sleep patterns. The calming nature of the massage routine helps regulate the baby's sleep-wake cycle, contributing to more restful nights for both the infant and their parents.


As caregivers engage in this bonding activity, they become attuned to their baby's cues, fostering a stronger emotional connection and building trust.  It creates a continuous love loop of communication, where parents can practice reading and responding to their babies needs.


Overall, incorporating infant massage into your daily routine not only nurtures the physical health of the baby but also cultivates a loving and supportive environment, laying the foundation for a strong parent-child bond that will endure throughout their developmental journey.


How to give your baby a massage: 

 

  • To start, find a quiet, warm space where you and your baby can relax without distractions.  A great time is during your baby’s wake window. Take a moment to center and ground yourself before you begin working with your little one.  You can choose to massage over clothing or use an organic, cold-pressed, fragrance free oil.  Virgin coconut oil is my favorite.

  • Before you begin, ask your baby for permission to proceed with a massage.  This teaches babies that they have ownership of their own body.  Cues that they are ready to proceed include making eye contact and playful cooing.

  • Next, warm the oil between your hands and begin with soft, slow movements of medium pressure starting with the baby's legs and feet.  Continue to check in with your baby by making eye contact, reading and responding to their nonverbal cues and describing the shared experience.

  • Remember, massage isn’t something you do TO your baby, it’s an experience you do WITH your baby!


What is the connection between the benefits of skin-to-skin contact and infant massage?


A mom opening the front of baby's Mama Bear Footie by Bonsie.
A mom opening the front of baby's Mama Bear Footie by Bonsie.

Skin-to-skin contact and baby massage play a crucial role in encouraging emotional, physical and energetic bonds between parent and baby through harnessing the power of touch.  Similar to the effects of skin-to-skin, massage stimulates the release of oxytocin for both parent and baby. This release of oxytocin activates the baby’s relaxation response, putting them in an optimal state for digestion, sleep, and development.



Baby massage incorporates touch, vocal communication, and eye gazing to further enhance and continue the bonding experience as the baby grows and develops.  The heart of baby massage is rooted in building connection, attunement, and bonding.  As this connection deepens, it fosters a sense of security and trust where babies feel confident to express their needs and explore the world around them.



Learn more from Whitney’s expertise @mama.aura.wellness


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