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Your babys health

Baby Massage: Benefits and Techniques Backed by Science

Baby massage is an intrinsic part of an infant’s growth and overall development. The mothers who are managing this therapeutic task are fond of using different baby-friendly oils. They don’t even use any baby oil. In fact, they use the ones that provide maximum benefits.

But if it really were that important for the growth of a baby, then who would be better prepared than the parents of the new-born child? Of course, preparedness comes naturally. However, have you ever wondered, what’s more to baby massage than its usage as therapy and the parent-child relationship?

For all the curious parents out there who want to understand the importance of baby massage. How does it actually work? What are its benefits? What does science say about baby massage? This write-up is for you. Read on to find out everything science says about baby massage.

Here are The Benefits of Baby Massage Backed by Science

  • Baby Massage Reduces the Possibilities of Jaundice
  • Baby Massage Reduces Stress
  • Baby Massage May Help Improve Learning Skills
  • Baby Massage Strengthens Infant-Mother Relationship
  • Baby Massage Helps Improve Sleep
  • Baby Massage Promotes Good Digestion

Baby massages have been a part of human life since time immemorial. You must have heard your grandmother talking about it, medical health professionals giving advice on baby massage, and advertisements showcasing mothers massaging their babies as a way to market baby oils.

So, pretty much everyone is familiar with the concept of baby massage. But there are various other nuances associated with a baby massage that we often miss out on. For instance, baby massage can help stimulate weight gain. In a study published in 2001, the authors revealed that massage therapy facilitates weight gain in infants.

The study was a compilation of several lab studies that documented a 31 to 47% increased weight gain in newborns compared to the other medical treatment available. Furthermore, the authors of the study explained that a 15-minute therapy session for over ten days can work wonders in the case of new-born babies.

Although the study failed to explain the underlying relationship between baby massage and weight gain, the results of the study established that baby massage is therapeutic in nature. The results also exclaimed that baby massage is directly related to:

  • Increased hormone production
  • Increases absorption power
  • Increased protein synthesis
  • Improves gastric motility
  • Decreases cortisol levels

Overall, the study proves baby massage to be quite effective. The only exception, in this case, is that further in-depth research is required to understand the behavioral and genetic effects of this baby massage therapy on newly born infants. That said, let us look in detail at other reasons that make baby massage so important.

Baby Massage Reduces the Possibilities of Jaundice

In a 2015 study conducted on 56 enrolled patients, where 29 neonates were examined under a controlled environment and 27 in the experimental group, It was found that early
infant massage can help reduce bilirubin levels. The study also concluded that baby massage can help increase defecation frequency in newborns receiving phototherapy for jaundice.

During the study, the neonates received a massage for three days. On the third day, the massage group showed increased defecation frequency and lowers levels of bilirubin. In contrast, the controlled group did not show any signs of improvement. Thus, stating that baby massage may help with lower jaundice levels in newborn babies than those who do not receive a massage at all.

Baby Massage Reduces Stress

This one’s a given. For ages, people have used massage as a way to reduce headaches and stress. Not only do we use massage to alleviate stress but people often use it as a way to release harmful toxins out of the body.

Newborns are no different. Studies show that baby massage can actually help alleviate stress in neonates. According to a research paper published in the Journal of Perinatology, baby massage improved HRV (heart rate variability) and ANS (autonomic nervous system) function in infants.

This study was again conducted between two groups – the controlled group and the group that received body massage twice a day for three weeks. The group of 27-32 weeks neonates showed significant improvement and responded well to exogenous stressors.

As a result, the study speculated that it’s quite possible that infants that receive massage most likely will develop a strengthened ANS function over time compared to the babies who receive no massage during the initial weeks.

Baby Massage May Help Improve Learning Skills

Learning skills, too, have a connection with learning skills. Here’s a study that will help you learn how massages will improve the learning abilities of your infant. This study was published in the late ’90s and the subject was given a 15-minute massage before giving the WPPSI subtest. These tests are ideally conducted to understand the learning abilities of a child.

So in the test, the child performed better on the Block Design and Mazes after receiving a 15 minutes massage. The results revealed thatperformance, accuracy, and concentration enhances when a test is followed by a massage.

To put things into perspective here’s another study published in the Infant Behavior and Development journal. Where four-month-old-infants received body massages for a consistent period. And, the results of the study revealed that infants who received an 8-minute massage responded well to audiovisual habituation tasks.

In contrast, other infants did not show any response of recovery from habituation during the test. So, looking at both the studies mentioned above, it is perhaps safe to say that baby massage helps improve cognitive skills in neonates.

Baby Massage Strengthens Infant-Mother Relationship

Not so long ago traditions such as mother and child separation after birth were practiced extensively. And to fully understand this concept, the authors conducted a study on the tradition to understand how it helps improve the relationship between mother and child.

According to the findings of the study, skin-to-skin contact through breastfeeding for 20 to 120 minutes right after birth positively influenced the bond between mother and child one year later as compared to the routines that involve infant and mother separation.

This means that baby massage can actually help improve the bond between mother and infant. Not only this, but several studies associate baby massage with mother and new-born relationships.

These studies have been published in the past few years and most of them reveal that baby massage has a positive effect on the overall development of a new-born. 

Baby Massage Helps Improve Sleep

According to a study published by Warwick University, baby massage not only helps improve sleep but also lowers stress levels. This study looked at a total of nine studies covering 598 newborns. And the results clearly indicated that infants who received massage slept better and cried less.
In addition to this, the authors of the study revealed that regular massage increases melatonin production. In other words, massage helps improve sleep in infants because melatonin helps infants sleep properly. 

Baby Massage Promotes Good Digestion

Because babies have an underdeveloped internal system, new-born babies can’t burn on their own. This causes belly discomfort and gas build-up inside the stomach. However, baby massage under the baby ribs in a clockwise direction helps babies relieve that pressure.

Simply put, if you gently knead on your baby’s back, the same activity will promote proper digestion along with a healthy gastrointestinal system.

Eventually, baby massage will also help with the problem of constipation, which is one of the major problems that parents face in the first two months.

In fact, a study published in the Italian Journal of Pediatrics proves the efficiency of baby massage. In this study of 27 subjects’ frequency of defecation, Frequency of vomiting, and gastric volume were analyzed. The difference in the first and last day of the study was quite impactful in the massage group when compared to the controlled group.

Although the study consisted of a small sample, the results were in favour of the massage group. The results showed that abdominal massage twice a day can help reduce gastric residual volume excess in infants.

All in all, baby massage is a very old concept but it has been used by doctors, nurses, and parents to promote the overall well-being of an infant. The only thing that you have to keep in mind is that baby massage involves techniques and pressure points. And as a parent, it’s your responsibility to understand how to go about those techniques.

What Is the Correct Way to Do a Baby Massage?

Let’s face it, just like you hire professionals to conduct a proper head massage so that nothing goes wrong, baby massage, too, comes with its own sets of technicalities. So, make sure you follow the step mentioned below:

  • First and foremost, place the baby in a comfortable place. It can be a smooth surface, your bed, or a special massage table.
  • Next, ensure that you use soft and gentle strokes.
  • Then go ahead and target the right parts. In particular, parts that will help improve digestion, sleep cycle, and overall well-being.
  • For the same, you can start massaging the feet using soft strokes.
  • Once you finish massaging the feet, the next step is to gently massage the shins, things, arms, and hands. Just move your hands in the forward and backward direction gently.
  • Slowly move towards the stomach and gently move your hand in the clockwise direction similar to the movement of your baby’s digestive system. But make sure you don’t massage delicate areas such as the neck and face.
  • For the final step, flip the baby over and massage the back in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions.

All these steps will enable you to carry out the process of baby massage in an effective manner. You can use baby oils or other products that are fit for massage.

However, using these products is optional. The only difference is that with massage oil, you can make the process more enjoyable and smooth. After all, massage oil will reduce the friction between your hands and the baby’s skin.

Should I Use Baby Massage Oil?

There is a wide collection of massage oils on the market. You must have a favorite one too. But choosing a baby oil is crucial for the overall development of the infant. According to a study published in 2005, oils have a significant impact on the infant’s development.

This study was undertaken to compare the effects of coconut oil and placebo and mineral oils on the growth velocity and neuro-behavior of infants.

The study concluded that coconut oil massage helps improve the weight gain velocity when compared to mineral oil. The study also revealed that preterm babies showed much greater length gain using coconut oil.

However, the authors of the study went on to say that coconut oil did not have any significant impact on the neuro-behavioural patterns.

This shows that it is vital to choose a good oil for baby massage. If you are not sure which oil works best for your baby, below is a list that might actually help you.

Which Baby Massage Oil Is Best for My New-Born?

Before we begin, as a parent of a newborn, you need to keep in mind that not every oil is good for baby massage. For instance, studies have shown that oils such as Sunflower and Olive oil break down the skin protection function. And these babies are more prone to skin conditions like eczema. So, make sure that you choose the right oil.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. You can use a few drops to massage because babies do not require anything fancy. Their skin is sensitive, and it requires care more than anything else. So, go for organic coconut oil. You will be able to find one easily in the market or at online stores.

Palmer Cocoa Butter Oil

Palmer Cocoa Butter Massage Oil is well-known for its hydrating and soothing properties. If you want something that heals eczema and dry skin, you can use this oil for its therapeutic benefits. 

Burt’s Bee Baby 100% Natural Nourishing Oil

Rich in antioxidants and 100% natural, the Burt’s Bee Baby Oil is excellent for healthy and smooth skin. It consists of grape seed and apricot oil and helps relieve skin discomfort without leaving a slippery residual.

You can use these baby oils to massage your infant. In addition to this, if you think that your baby is allergic to any type of oil, consult a doctor immediately and seek medical supervision. Moreover, make sure that you do what’s best for your baby.

Final Thoughts

From the studies that we have discussed so far, it is fair to say that baby massage is an important aspect of an infant’s overall development. So, enjoy massaging your baby and strengthen the bond that you will share with your little one in the near future. For more detailed information, read this guide on baby massage.

Categories
Positive parenting

Gentle Parenting: What Is It and Is It Worth It?

Table of contents:

 

The word ‘parenting’ has more meaning to it than you think. Just Google the word and you’ll find a long list of links pointing towards different styles of parenting, tips and tricks to being a good parent, what’s effective and what isn’t and so on. Well, I’m not promising you something different but at the same time, this blog is not about something mainstream.Today, we’ll be discussing gentle parenting. We’ll dive deep into the subject to help you understand if you are ready to be a gentle parent.

What is Gentle Parenting?

Like I said before, I’m not going to talk about something mainstream and gentle parenting falls perfectly in this description.

Gentle Parenting is a scientific, evidence-based, approach to raising confident and happy children.

-Sarah Ockwell Smith (Childcare Author and Parenting Expert)

Gentle parenting is just another style of parenting or disciplining that takes a different route than the traditional methods. If you were born in the 1990s or before, it’s more than likely that you’re grown up in an authoritarian style of parenting. It includes the system of reward and punishment. The word ‘grounded’ will help kick in more nostalgia for the younger times.

But, when we talk about gentle parenting, it doesn’t include the concept of reward or punishment. In simple words, gentle parenting is more focused on the parent’s attitude and its effect on the parent-child relationship than that of the child. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely some emphasis on the child but the inclination is more towards your attitude and the way you deal with situations to build or break a bond.

As a gentle parent, you are expected to understand your child, their motives, intentions and mindset and act accordingly. You have to create a bond with the child where he or she feels that their voice can be heard. The method requires you to be supportive of the right things and understanding about the wrong ones. Develop mutual trust and respect so that the child feels that their home and parent is a safe space.

Here’s a quick overview of the dos and don’ts of the gentle parenting method.

Dos of Gentle Parenting

Your job is to connect with your child and be guiding and encouraging. Give them space to be themselves and guide them wherever and whenever necessary. Always remember, the way you deal with your child is the way they’ll respond to you. If you are kind and understanding, you will observe the same in their behavior too.

Don’ts of Gentle Parenting

As a gentle parent, you are not trying to be controlling, punishing or demanding. Try not to project your wishes, ideals, opinions or feelings onto your child. They are their own being. Understand that and act accordingly. Spend time with them. Play a game (I love chutes and ladders) or go to family dinners. Try to build a strong parent-child relationship.

What Are the Core Values of Gentle Parenting?

Gentle parenting style doesn’t really have any clear-cut book of rules. It’s very dynamic in the sense that a parent can work around its core values and define their own way of gentle parenting. So, let’s talk about these core values to help you better understand how to go about this parenting style.

Gentle parenting style is all about building a relationship with your child. How you go about it is your choice. But, as Sarah Ockwell describes in her book, you must try and build the bond on 4 core values or pillars. These are:

  1. Empathy
  2. Respect
  3. Understanding
  4. Boundaries

Empathy

In the gentle parenting method, you need to follow the technique of ‘mind-mindedness’. Simply put, understand that your child has their own mind, thoughts and opinions. Be empathetic to their emotions and feelings and respond accordingly.

Respect

Never let yourself slide into the thought of ‘it’s my child, I’ll parent in whatever way I please.’ This attitude will lead you to pressure your child into things you feel are right or appropriate. Remember, it’s your child but it’s also human. So, you must accept their right to be treated with dignity and respect. When you respect them, they will respect you too.

Understanding

You have to start thinking from the perspective of your child. Don’t expect your 2-year-old to behave or act a certain way everywhere. Understand that their mind isn’t developed like that of an adult. If they are behaving inappropriately or different from usual, try to understand their perspective. Ask a question like why, who, where, when and how, to figure out what led to something. There’s always a reason behind your child’s behavior. It won’t always be a big issue but a reason will always be there. Try to decode the situation in every case.

Boundaries

Gentle parenting involves boundaries. In any case, gentle parenting does not take away the role of a parent, that is, of authority. So you can be strict and have rules but at the same time, you’ve got to be warm and open.

You can decide these boundaries on your own terms (keeping all the other values in mind). But, it should neither be all about leniency and saying ‘yes’ to everything and nor about being extremely strict. Find a center that works for both of you and move forward.

How is Gentle Parenting Different From Other Styles of Parenting?

With all the other styles of parenting in the picture, it can be difficult to pick the one that’ll be right for your family. So, let’s understand how gentle parenting differs from the three other popular styles of parenting.

Authoritarian Parenting vs Gentle Parenting

Authoritarian parenting involves expecting obedience from the child in every aspect. More often than not, an authoritarian parent sets expectations from the child and tries to mold the behavior of the child to fulfill those expectations. One of the most common aspects of authoritarian parenting is the concept of punishment and reward. While such reinforcement might help build or curb a behavior, studies show that it has a negative impact on a child’s psychology.

Gentle parenting steers clear from the one-way communication of authoritarian parenting. Parents are open to discussions and try to build a relationship where the child feels no hesitation to express themselves. Reinforcement techniques of reward and punishment are avoided.

Attachment Parenting vs Gentle Parenting

Attachment parenting is all about attachment. For the first few years of growth, the parent creates a bond with the child using attachment techniques such as co-sleeping and quick response to their needs.

Gentle parenting doesn’t restrict itself to babies or young children. While the technique may be similar to attachment parenting such as the principle of being gentle but it’s more about being kind and creating mutual respect and understanding in the long run.

Permissive Parenting vs Gentle Parenting

Permissive parenting comes from the other end of the spectrum that includes parents treating their children as equals. So they do not get into their business and the child generally gets away with most things. They never say no and always try to please the child in whatever way they can. In simple words, it’s a ‘hands-off’ parenting technique.

Gentle parenting involves kindness but does not have a hands-off style. It includes the creation of boundaries, rules and regulations but by keeping in mind the other principles of respect, empathy and understanding.

Is Gentle Parenting Effective?

Yes, gentle parenting is effective. But, it’s not a style that will give you immediate results. The primary idea of gentle parenting is to understand that a child is an individual that is growing. At every point in time, they may have a different mindset or outlook. So, your technique might also not work at times.

But, that’s what it’s about. You’ve got to change your attitude and way of dealing with your child accordingly. That’s how you’ll be able to have a child that turns out to be kind, independent and expressive.

Benefits of Gentle Parenting

Gentle parenting might be a new way of parenting the child but it’s effective and in some cases even better than the traditional methods. If you are trying gentle parenting or think of giving it a try, you can be more sure about the results with the following benefits that the method entails.

  • The child learns about self worth.
  • The child turns out to be intelligent.
  • They are better at regulating their emotions.
  • They are more independent.
  • They are more sociable.
  • They develop healthy adult relationships.
  • They are less secretive.
  • They are more empathetic towards others.

Gentle parenting is not only beneficial for the child but it’s also a good thing for the parents. When you have a better bond with your child, you have less worries about the child hiding things from you or behaving in a way that you don’t know how to deal with. In the long run, you have a kid that’s independent and knows how to differentiate between wrong and right.

The family dynamic is not tense and there’s no room for resentment to build up. The boundaries created by the parents feel less like restrictions and more like a way of developing a sense of security.

Parents realizing that they have no control over the emotions or feelings of the child helps them not blame themselves for things they can’t control. So, eventually, gentle parenting results in the happiness of both the child and the parent.

What Are the Drawbacks of Gentle Parenting?

Most people question the style of gentle parenting mostly because it does not have a specific definition. It’s more like a mixture of all the important factors or different parenting styles that can be molded by the parent according to what they need. It’s dynamic nature is often seen as a pro as well as a con.

Some people think it’s too lenient. But in reality, gentle parenting can be stricter than other parenting styles. It all depends on the way you create boundaries for your children.

In addition to this, it may be difficult for parents to mold themselves into the parenting style. You have let go of the way you were brought up and think in a way that generates kind responses and an understanding attitude. It’s hard work and may even take years to show results. But, in the long run, you invest in a healthy and happy home and an independent, empathetic and wise child.

Are You a Gentle Parent?

There’s no foolproof way to determine if you are a gentle parent or not. But, to have some idea about where you stand, try to answer the following questions.

Are you kind to your child?

You have to be kind to your child in every situation. The idea of punishment, time-outs and yelling is not practiced by a gentle parent.

Are you patient?

A child is still learning. So, their behavior will be unpredictable at times. You cannot lash out at them for it. Take some time, reflect on the situation, try to understand it before responding.

Are you treating your child like a ‘mini-adult’?

It’s crucial to understand that a child is a child. If you are expecting your child to behave, learn and respond like adults, you are in the wrong direction. Gentle parenting will help you develop realistic expectations from your child.

Are you creating a safe space for your child?

Gentle parenting emphasizes creating a bond with your child. It should be strong enough for the child to feel safe and expressive around you.

Are you projecting your opinions on your child?

Your expectations from your child shouldn’t be based on your idea of what’s right and what’s not. You have to be a parent that’s parenting without being selfish.

How to Practice Gentle Parenting?

Like we’ve discussed already, gentle parenting is all about developing a relationship using the 4 core values. You can use it to create a gentle parenting style that will work for your family. But, if you need some help, here are a few ways you can try to begin.

Gentle parenting for bedtime

You don’t stop parenting your child during or after bedtime. Use the pillars of gentle parenting to soothe the child. If there’s something that’s bothering them, be there to talk to them. Whatever they need, be there to deal with it like a gentle parent.

Gentle parenting for improper behavior

Children are not born with the gene to figure out what’s right and wrong. So you will face situations where you have to deal with improper behavior. But remember, with gentle parenting, you are not punishing or laying threats on your child for inappropriate behavior.

Take time to access the situation and choose a path that will help the child fix their behavior. For instance, if a child breaks a very important vase, instead of getting furious and punishing them, make them glue it up instead. Whatever you do, make sure you give them a clear explanation of why you decided to do something. It helps clear any tension and helps the child understand limits and rules more effectively.

Gentle parenting alternatives to yelling

Yelling never helps ease a situation. It builds tension in your relationship with the child. Instead, try to replace yelling with some gentle parenting techniques. Calm yourself down, understand the predicament of your child and move forward. This way you are neither stressing your child nor yourself.

Gentle parenting techniques for building a relationship

Let’s be honest, building a relationship with your child can be challenging. It’s difficult to maintain a balance between being a parent and being a friend. But, if you wish to be a gentle parent, you have to find the sweet spot. To do that, remember these four points:

  • Listen
  • Understand
  • Respond
  • Communicate

Takeaway

There’s no lack of parenting styles out there. Each has its pros and cons. You can take your time to find out which one will suit your family.

When it comes to gentle parenting, it’s a happy mean between authoritarian, permissive and attachment parenting. Each of these methods focus on excessive control, child pleasing attitude and excessive attachment, respectively. But, gentle parenting is all about not being selfish, being there for your child and allowing them to express while being aware of the boundaries.

So, are you ready to be a gentle parent?

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