Infant massage is about touch. It is about touching our babies in a systematic way with a specific result in mind. Although it may seem like a relatively new phenomenon, it has long been practiced in many cultures throughout the world. In Nigeria babies are massaged from birth until they are about 12 months old. In many parts of India grandmothers will massage babies for the first 10 to 12 months and then the mothers will continue with the massage. In New Zealand the Maoris have a saying:

Massage the legs of your daughter,
So she will walk with grace
Across the plains of Poverty Bay.

Infant massage is a common childcare practice in countries as diverse as Uganda, New Zealand, Venezuela and Russia. Many studies have been conducted recently in the United States on the benefits of infant massage. The earliest data on the benefits of infant massage comes from studies on preterm infants. It was found that these babies gained 40% more weight and performed better at developmental tasks. Healthy babies also benefit from massage. In fact it is essential to all babies. We are a container society. Our babies spend a lot of time in cribs, strollers, carriers and car seats. Babies need to be held and touched. Spending as little as 10 minutes a day massaging a baby gives them the touch they so very much need. It definitely feels good but more importantly it is a basic need.

Touch is so important that without it babies don’t thrive. When babies were placed in orphanages in the early part of the last century there was a very high incidence of infant mortality. Since most of these babies started out healthy and were well cared for, no one understood why they were dying. They were fed and changed and keep warm and yet they died. The missing piece of the puzzle was touch. When caretakers finally realized this an effort was made to hold these babies and interestingly enough the infant mortality rate decreased. Touch is not an emotional fringe benefit for infants. It is as necessary as the air they breathe. Before the advent of modern medicine touch was the main healing modality. It was referred to as “laying–on of hands”. This practice is still used in many parts of the world today. Even Western medicine is coming to understand the value of healing touch. Today various forms of massage are used as medical treatment. Medical attention other than massage may be warranted if a baby is truly ill, however, massage can ease many of the baby’s common complaints.

Some conditions that can be eased with massage are:

• gas and colic
• the discomfort of teething
• not sleeping
• excess stress

Infant massage can also enhance a child’s development. There are five aspects of early development that are influenced by touch. They are:

1. Communication – direct eye contact, listening, taking turns
2. Motor Skills– improves muscle tone, coordination and increases body awareness
3. Socialization – infant and parent engage one another
4. Self-Help – may stimulate oral motor musculature awareness, lip closure relaxation of tension for swallowing
5. Cognition – increases overall awareness of self and body boundaries and increases attention span.

Infant massage is also beneficial to the caretaker and is therefore a great parenting tool. Some of the benefits for parents are:

• It increases confidence and handling skills.
• Parents gain a better understanding about their infant’s cues
• It enhances communication skills
• It promotes bonding and attachment

Infant massage is easy to learn, fun for everyone and very beneficial. It should be part of every parenting class. Communication is so important. With infant massage parents start bonding with their babies at the very beginning. This sets the stage for great communication as the child grows older.

Laura Lacey, LMT, NC

Author's Bio: 

Laura has been working with women and children through massage and nutrition for several years. "It's a great population to work with. I love what I do." She has recently released a DVD - "Baby Massage ~ The Gift of Love" It is available on and on her website