The important reasons to carve out time for baby massage

From improving sleep to building bonds, giving your baby a massage or calming spa can have a host of long-lasting perks.

Whether you choose to do it yourself or put your little one in expert hands, there are plenty of benefits associated with baby massage.

The gentle, rhythmic stroking of your baby’s body with your hands is said to encourage sleep, improve health and even build on the bond between you and your little one.

Breanne Eley, owner of Baby Spa in Victoria, sees first-hand the many positives massaging newborns brings.

“It’s really beneficial and has been performed on babies for more 2000 years,” she says.

“It’s good for their circulation system, but also babies are growing so rapidly they have a lot of growth pains and we’re able to help with that.”

What science says about baby massage

A team at Warwick University in the UK found massage can help infants under six months sleep better, cry less and feel less stressed.

Another study by Iranian researchers found massage is better at relieving the symptoms of colic than rocking a baby.

And US researchers found newborns receiving massages gained more weight per day, appeared more aware and had increased motor skills.

Baby massage is even said to help mothers with post-natal depression who are having trouble bonding with their newborns, according to a paper published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

How to prepare your baby for a massage

Babies are wiggly and squirmy at the best of times, so making sure you are well organised and making sure that everything you need is close to hand is important.

The respected Mayo Clinic in the US suggests creating a calm atmosphere and positioning bub safely on a towel or blanket in front of you.

Using a gentle touch at first, slowly stroke or knead each part of your infant’s body, while talking, humming or even singly softly.

If you choose to use oil, select one that is odourless and edible – just in case your baby gets some in his or her mouth.

And what about a baby spa?

Champion Melbourne midfielder and AFLW trailblazer Daisy Pearce is just one of the many new mums checking out the buzz around baby spas.

She says six-month-old twins Roy and Sylvie are fans of the concept, which is relatively new to Australia, and offers hydrotherapy and infant massage for babies from two days to eight months.

“It’s good fun, nice to do something they enjoy and to see them nice and relaxed,” Daisy says. “And they have a good sleep afterwards – hopefully!”

Breanne says the baby spa concept was created to bridge the gap between the time babies are in the womb to when they could start swimming lessons, but other benefits quickly became apparent for infants taking part in the sessions.

“Including greater muscle development as well as cognitive support – babies were a lot stronger in their tummy time, their rolling and their crawling,” Breanne says.

“It’s also great for any babies who have digestion issues – so colic, wind, reflux, or if they are constipated – the gentle pressure of the water is really good on their digestive system and is able to help aid those things.”

Written by Liz McGrath.