For anyone who has taken part in antenatal education classes, you’ll no doubt have been taught that loving touch creates oxytocin, the love hormone. The stimulation of oxytocin is often used to trigger childbirth, but it is also vital for physical and mental health and wellbeing in children and adults alike. Physical touch also increases levels of dopamine and serotonin in the body – two neurotransmitters that help regulate your mood and relieve stress and anxiety. So any class which majors on that parent-child connection of touch and being held will be an enormously beneficial experience for both parties.
Baby Massage is a great example of this kind of loving touch-based activity. Learning and engaging in baby massage routines can be a wonderful experience for your baby – but can also really help mums who might be struggling with PND, or a lack of connection to their baby.
Massage can also be great for dads who typically get less ‘hands on’ time with babies and can therefore sometimes be less confident in handling them. But whether you’re a mum or dad, massage teaches you that your baby is more durable than you might think! It is also a great way of building other family relationships, by letting siblings and grandparents join in for example.
But massage is not just a bonding experience. It also offers lots of other physical and health-based benefits. Firstly, it helps a child to be more aware of their body. It can help to relax them and make them less clingy, as well as forming part of a nice bedtime or naptime routine to help them sleep better. It can also release gas and tummy pain or release constipation which are often causes of waking.
For premature babies, it’s a really important means of helping them to develop and hit their milestones. It can soothe the pressures and trauma of being born – loosening the shoulders for example after being forced through the birth canal. Then as babies start to get mobile, massage can loosen up their joints which become tight from crawling – just as we do from exercise.
Facial strokes can be very helpful for babies who cry a lot, soothing tensed up facial muscles and reducing tension across the forehead, while massage of the face can be very cleansing for skin and pores, help with mucus drainage when they have a cold and help soothe immunisation and teething pain. Gum massage is also a great way to prepare babies for tooth brushing from an early age to try and prevent toothbrush-based battles as they get older!
Baby Yoga is another good example of a class or activity which promotes positive parent-child interaction. Combining massage with holds, stretching, singing and rhymes it helps babies to find ‘shortcuts’ to developmental milestones such as rolling, sitting, crawling, standing and walking. The fun and loving approach helps their brain to grow lots of happy neuron networks at the time of most intense growth.
For instance, when you cross the midline of a baby’s body with the arms/legs in an ‘open / shut them’ movement, it crosses the neural pathways of the brain to help with their coordination. When you ‘move’ your baby around with swings and rolls, you work your baby’s vestibular system, which is their sensory system of balance and movement. It also plays a part in speech development.
Specific exercises work the core and other muscles needed to ‘get on the move’. Baby Yoga exercises also support the development of strong core and dorsal muscles, and encourage the correct curvature of the spine – one of the last areas of bone growth in babies.
If you’d like to come and try one of Busylizzy’s local or online Baby Yoga or Massage sessions, you can find out more at www.busylizzy.co.uk. We’d love to hear from you.