Benefits of Infant Massage for Both Child and Caregiver

Catherine McDowell, OTR/L, LMBT, E-RYT200/RYT500

September 1, 2018

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Question

What are the benefits of infant massage? Can it be used with children with special needs?

Answer

Infant Massage Helps Relieve:

  • Gas and colic
  • Constipation and elimination
  • Growing pains and muscular tension
  • Teething discomfort
  • Cramps

It can also help with certain issues such as gas and colic. In fact, the infant I am going to be showing you in a video has tremendous gas issues. Infant massage has helped him with this. I will also go through some special strokes for constipation. Growing pains and muscular tension can also be relieved with massage. Soothing the baby physically via massage has been shown to help relieve the discomfort of teething and cramping with digestive issues.

Massage Effects:

  • Circulatory and digestive systems 
  • Hormonal and immune systems
  • Coordination and balance
  • Learning and concentration
  • Muscular development and growth
  • Mind and body awareness

The skin is the largest organ of the body. Massage affects circulatory and digestive systems. It also works on hormone and immune systems. It is excellent for coordination and balance, working on sidedness and body awareness. It can help with learning and concentration. There was a study done showing that infant foot massage, done on a daily basis, improved reading skills later in life. It also affects muscular development and growth. This can be seen especially with the cerebral palsy population to help with spasticity, rigidity, and limited range of motion. Starting as an infant, providing massage very early on is just wonderful for that child's development. 

Relaxation Response:

  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Increased flexibility and muscle tone
  • Regulation of behavioral states
  • Being calm and being able to calm themselves
  • Reduction in stress hormones

The relaxation response improves sleep patterns. Babies who are given consistent massage are better able to self-soothe themselves. You see the calming effects on yourself, as the caregiver, providing the treatment.

There are additional benefits from infant massage for premature infants, as well as disadvantaged mothers. We have seen cross-cultural studies that show babies, who are held, massaged, carried, nurtured, and rocked, and also breastfed, become less aggressive violent adults. They are better able to cope with stressful situations. They are able to automatically find a way to self-soothe themselves. They are more compassionate.

Recent research demonstrates the benefits for premature infants and the failure to thrive babies. It improves their ability to eat and digest. Children with asthma, diabetes, and certain skin disorders can also benefit. Positive effects on mothers with postpartum depression have also been documented. Their bonding improved with the infant, as well as their ability to feel support from the practitioners teaching them how to give the massage. Massage can also have benefits for teenage mothers. Those moms with substance use problems often feel inadequate, do not have the skills, or good parenting skills. With the support of being taught how to provide for their child, in this very intimate very supportive way, they do much better themselves in their coping skills. If their baby is having a hard day, they have a larger arsenal of ways to affect their child and help soothe their child.


catherine mcdowell

Catherine McDowell, OTR/L, LMBT, E-RYT200/RYT500

Catherine McDowell has been an Occupational Therapist for over 20 years. After many years in the field of Occupational Therapy, first as a COTA, then OTR, becoming Director of Occupational Therapy at a nationally recognized United Cerebral Palsy program. Catherine took some time to explore a number of other health-related fields, becoming a Licensed Massage & Bodywork Therapist, Yoga Therapist, RYT500/ E-RYT200 Yoga Alliance teacher, and Certified Holistic Health Practitioner. Catherine is currently the Executive Director of June10 inc; a new concept in long-term residential substance abuse treatment program, which serves women, pregnant women and women with infants, she is also the Health & Wellness Coordinator at Pavillon By the Sea an IOP for substance use disorder. She has been appointed to the Governor’s Counsel for Women.


Related Courses

Benefits of Infant Massage for Both Child and Caregiver
Presented by Catherine McDowell, OTR/L, LMBT, E-RYT200/RYT500
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