By Sonya Edmonds, clinical aromatherapist, RN, RM
There is a comprehensive list of benefits for infant massage, based on extensive research. Many of these benefits can help to improve the breastfeeding experience for both mum and baby. Some of these benefits include:
Enhanced attachment and bonding
Infant massage enhances bonding and a new parent’s confidence in handling their baby. Skin to skin touch promotes the release of oxytocin; the hormone responsible for the let down’ reflex.
Increased activity of the vagus nerve/ enhanced weight gain
As the breast milk changes composition and increases in volume, infant massage can assist with weight gain as it stimulates the vagus nerve. Increased vagus nerve activity aids in the digestion of breast milk, promoting weight gain in all infants, but especially the low birth weight infant. Research shows that vagal tone and gastric motility during massage were significantly related to weight gain.
Parents who regularly massage their infants can observe their early feeding cues and respond quickly to their infant’s needs.
Improved sleep patterns
Infant massage enhances serotonin release, aiding in improved sleep patterns and the promotion of deep sleep cycles. Infant massage assists in regulating the release of melatonin, helping to balance circadian rhythms. Improved sleep for baby leads to a well rested mother, facilitating better breast milk supply. A more settled infant will be more likely to attach and suck well at the breast.
Relief from wind, colic, reflux and constipation.
Specific massage techniques can be used to relieve wind, colic and constipation. Massage speeds the process of myelination in the nervous system which can assist with reflux.
Reduced anxiety and stress hormones
Massage measurably reduces cortisol levels in children and parents. Stress hormones can have a negative impact on breast supply. Aromatherapy can also be of great benefit in this case.
Baby massage differs from adult massage. It is important to learn this skill for life from a qualified practitioner.
Sonya Edmonds from Mother Nurture runs regular Infant Massage classes at MAMA