MS, RDN, CDN
Allison is a registered dietitian who holds a Master’s in Nutrition and Physical Fitness. She also loves helping families get creative with their wellness choices.
A gentle rubdown is a sweet way to bond with your newborn, but it’s more than a feel-good activity. Infant massage gives your baby a slew of benefits, including less crying, better sleep, and lower levels of stress hormones. In fact, massage has been found to help premature infants gain weight and to have therapeutic effects for babies who are sick. So as you knead those chubby thighs and gently stroke that round-as-a-Buddha’s belly, you’re likely benefiting your baby’s future well-being in addition to calming her current crankiness.
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Pre-verbal babies (and even verbal toddlers) communicate primarily through their bodies. Infant massage combines this tactile, kinesthetic and emotional stimulation in a gentle but purposeful way — you’re not trying to manipulate her muscles as much as you are communicating with her in a way that pleases and soothes you both.
Your baby will let you know what feels good to her almost instantaneously: watch her for positive cues like eye contact, smiles, cooing sounds and relaxed movements with her arms and legs. Stop massaging her if she squirms away, arches her back, flails her arms and legs or cries. When you try again, try massaging her in a different way.
Field, Tiffany, Miguel Diego, and Maria Hernandez-Reif. “Preterm Infant Massage Therapy Research: A Review.” Infant Behav Dev. Volume 33. Issue 2 (2010): pages 115-124.