In addition to the benefits of massage for the baby, I have seen the effects on a mother. Mothers are just as delicate as their babies and a brief, gentle, collective experience is vitally important in the early months. Usually by the end of my class both myself and the mothers are so relaxed that we could literally nap right then and there! I’ve seen a baby who was flat out asleep laying like a little starfish on the mat. Mother anxieties have melted and many fears dissipated by the end of the course. Baby massage should have an environment that is friendly, warm and relaxing. In our class I always ask the mothers how they are finding adapting to change. I give them an opportunity to be heard, to vent and to feel the healing flow oxytocin between them and their baby.
It’s not surprising that women feel better after a class as research has shown that it can reduce postnatal depression. The Fetal and Neonatal Stress Research group, Imperial College London reports, that mothers who experience postnatal depression are known to have a conceivably difficult relationship with their baby. The aim of their study was to discover whether mothers attending a baby massage course would be beneficial to them. A group in which mothers attended five massage classes was compared with a similar group who attended a support group. At the end of the test period the massage group had significantly less depression and had better interaction with their babies, than the control group who only attended the support group. (Imperial College London, Fetal and Neonatal Stress Research Group Dr Vivanne Glover 2008 Report: Massage and mother baby interaction with depressed mothers, carried out by Fetal and Neonatal Stress Research Group.)
There are many benefits of baby massage, here are some:
- Babies who are massaged cry less, sleep better and are less stressed
- It improves muscular tone and circulation
- Helps brain development and increases mental and emotional development
- Fosters a positive relationship with the caregiver
- Improves weight gain for premature babies
- Has a positive effect on behaviour in Preschool children
One of the things I have observed about baby massage is moreso to do with the maternal experience. A mother enjoys coming because the pace is gentle and not hurried. The mother enjoys coming back because it gets her out the house and doing some delicate socialising. The environment is comforting-quiet away the lonely quiet of home. If she has older children, it gives her the one to one time she may have been longing for. It enables her to slip away from home responsibilities guilt free. Each woman focuses on her baby and each mother-baby couple are in a zone of their own. At times we’ll giggle. A story is always told and there is an exchange of empathy and understanding. She has a chance to be listened to without judgement.
Sometimes hugs are exchanged at the end of class and this is what a mother deeply needs. Many times reassurance is needed and so is signposting. Oftentimes a mother will linger behind and I give her this time. So, you see baby massage isn’t just about doing massage to your baby, it’s about having another way to be with your baby. It’s about memories, wellness and mindfulness. It’s about positive early maternal experiences.
It’s much more about you.
Every mother matters every moment.
Imperial College London, Fetal and Neonatal Stress Research Group Dr Vivanne Glover 2008 Report: Massage and mother baby interaction with depressed mothers, carried out by Fetal and Neonatal Stress Research Group
Coleman, Daniel. “The Experience of Touch: Research Points to a Critical Role.” New York Times. February 1988 and Gardner, Amanda. “Can a Mother’s Affection Prevent Anxiety in Adulthood?” CNN.com. July 2010) Taken from Urban Child Institute
Feldman, Rosenthal & Eidelman, 2014; National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004; World Health Organisation, 2004