Friday, September 30, 2005

The Physical Benefits of Infant Massage

Baby massage as a trend is something that is helping many parents to bond with their children. The emotional benefits of massage include extra closeness, decreased stress hormones, and increase endorphins. If those benefits still leave you a little skeptical, check into the physical advantages the massages will give your baby.

You may have learned that when your baby is very small, touch is his most important sense to your baby. The skin is attached to the central nervous system, and touch helps your baby to identify his or her environment. Touching your baby regularly for a massage means that he or she will become accustomed to your touch and the physiological effects is causes.

Babies who do not receive touch because of sickness or abandonment do not thrive. Researchers and pediatricians have discovered that touch is vital to helping a baby develop at a normal rate. Your use of massage aids this development. The pituitary gland secretes growth hormone, and studies show that baby massage helps to increase the growth hormone that your baby receives.

Most parents have heard premonitions about the dangers of not putting socks on baby's feet, but few parents know why that is. Babies' circulatory systems are not fully developed, which means that the extreme peripheries of their bodies, such as the top of their heads, their hands, and their feet, will be cold because they are not getting enough blood to them.

Massage helps with this circulation issue. You will be helping your baby's circulatory system by massaging your baby. Many parents report that their babies' hands and feet get warmer during a massage. Relaxing muscles absorb more blood while contracting muscles release blood to return to the heart. That means that the relaxation and contract pattern during massage increase the little one's circulation.

Baby massage also aids in relaxation of the muscles around the joints. During the infant days, your baby is learning to move his body in different ways. Much of this movement depends on your little one's ability to make use of his joints. Massage will help your baby to gain flexibility in his joints.

Regular massages also have a sloughing effect for your baby's skin. Skin typically sloughs off dead cells frequently, but sometimes babies' skin is not as good as this process because of the extra oils needed for protection in the womb. The massage will remove these cells from your baby's skin. The skin will then be free to release toxins and increase sebum production. Sebum is a natural oil that helps the skin's elasticity and increases resistance to infection.

Massage also stimulates the vagus nerve, which affects the gastrointestinal track. The vagus nerve helps the body absorb insulin, glucose, and other food release hormones. It can promote the movement of wastes through the body by improving the lymphatic system. Baby massage overall makes your baby feel better through a number of physical benefits. These benefits are hopefully enough to make you try massage with your little one.

By Julia Mercer

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