It may come as no surprise that massage therapy has loads of health benefits from stress reduction, to pain relief, to improving overall physical health. If you’re one of the people that gets massages on a regular basis you can probably attest to this yourself. But it isn’t just for adults; pediatric massage offers so many wonderful benefits for infants and toddlers too!
Massage therapy can...
...Help soothe as part of a bedtime routine. From as early as the infant stage, incorporating massage into the bedtime routine can help children fall asleep faster and improve overall sleep quality. The Swedish massage style known as “effleurage” is excellent for this.
...Relieve stress. Even the youngest of babies can get stressed, albeit it isn’t from the morning commute to work or having to pay bills. They feel stress in their little worlds nonetheless and they can benefit greatly from therapeutic touch. Massage therapy can help to reduce stress hormones that can negatively impact your little one’s immune system. Because of this, massage can actually help them avoid illness!
...Strengthen the child/parent bond. Massage therapy is all about providing gentle touch and being able to do this for your kiddos will likely make them feel closer to you. Even just the act of setting aside uninterrupted time each night where you are helping them to feel calm and soothed makes it special on its own.
...Help children with special needs. Children with ADHD have been shown to exhibit less hyperactivity and more on-task behavior when massage was incorporated on a regular basis. For children with Autism, it helps to reduce touch sensitivity and decrease irritability.
...Teach your child about safe touch and boundaries. Even as their parent, you should always ask your child if they want to have a massage. Sometimes they may not be up for it but giving them the opportunity to say yes or no helps teach them about boundaries and that what they say matters even from such a young age.
You don’t have to be a licensed massage therapist in order to do this and you may very well already be providing massage therapy without realizing it. Just make sure you're both in a comfortable position (You don’t want to hurt your own back in the process!) and start with gentle pressure at their feet or head.
My 5-month old daughter loves when I rub her head and face, very similar to this video (although unlike the video I haven’t yet mastered getting her to fall asleep in 60 seconds). Using lavender lotion is also a nice addition and the one I like a lot is from the Shea Moisture company.
You can do little circles or long strokes down the arms, legs and back. Gentle squeezes on their hands and feet will be relaxing and also help with circulation. There are a lot of videos on infant and toddler massage to give you an idea of what to do.
For the cuteness factor alone, here is a video to get you started! Also, here is a guide to pediatric massage from the American Massage Therapy Association that may help to answer any questions you might have.
Lisa is a baby-wearing, breastfeeding, cloth diapering mama. She has been a licensed massage therapist since 2001.