The first thing a new parent is inclined to do with a newborn baby is to touch her. It’s amazing that your instincts kick in so quickly, directing you to do something that’s so beneficial to the baby right from the start.
Human touch is widely recognized as one of the most therapeutic stimuli out there. It’s been proven that a loving touch, like the one you reflexively give your baby as you stroke and cuddle and hold her, decreases the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, and instead releases oxytocin in the body— also known as the love hormone or the cuddle hormone. So just imagine how good that touch feels to a baby when it’s taken to the level of infant massage.
It may sound a little silly to think that a newborn baby needs a massage after a hard day of lying around the bassinet and being fawned all over. But infant massage is less about kneading tired muscles and more about creating a powerful and beneficial bonding experience between caregiver and baby.
In fact, massage is a fantastic way for a dad to connect with his new baby, not having had the benefit of actually giving birth himself. Similarly, it’s a wonderful resource for adoptive parents and grandparents who want a meaningful bonding experience with the baby too.
The effects aren’t just psychological; massage can create actual positive changes in the central nervous system leading to benefits like healthy weight gain and better digestion-- great if you have a spitter-upper on hand. It can boost the immune system, improve blood circulation, and even provide ample soothing and relaxation cues to lessen the symptoms of colic.
The benefits to you are terrific too, moms, since spending a few moments stroking those sweet chubby arms and legs helps you get to know your baby better. You’ll start to learn how she likes to be touched, and what movements she responds to best. Think of it as communication at its most primal, and the more your baby “tells you,” the more confident you’ll be in your abilities to parent. (Although we already know you can do it!)
Can you think of any better nighttime ritual just after bath time to get baby ready for a good night’s sleep?
If this sounds like it might be up your alley, find a website or DVD that offers instruction, or just grab some baby lotion, dim the lights, and experiment with gentle strokes across your baby’s delicious skin.
Then watch those love hormones start to flow.