Being a parent is wonderful, there’s no doubt about it. But there’s also no doubt about the fact that being faced with a crying baby can be completely agonising.
Crying is normal for babies and is one of their main ways of communicating with you. There’s lots of reasons why they may cry. They might be hungry, sleepy, over-stimulated, need their nappy changed, be too hot or cold, have a sore tummy with gas/constipation, be in discomfort with a growth spurt or teething or, quite simply, just need comforted.
You love your child (and your eardrums!) and so will do anything to make the crying stop. If you have a child that cries a lot the good news is that you don’t need to feel desperate: baby massage can be an effective tool to help.
Taking the time to massage your baby provides a wonderful opportunity for uninterrupted one-on-one time. This gives you time to get to know and understand your baby. Having the opportunity to observe your baby’s behaviour, their cry and their body language allows you to learn your baby’s cues and how to respond to them, ultimately leading to a more content baby.
Like all of us, babies respond well to touch; it’s an instinctive human reaction to the increased closeness and comfort. Feeling that bond with their parent can calm your child and baby massage is a natural extension of that concept. But it does so much more than just a kiss or cuddle (although of course we recommend plenty of those as well!).
For starters, a soothing baby massage will increase your baby’s serotonin levels. Serotonin is the hormone in your brain which relaxes us and so helps us sleep better. Parents often find that their baby sleeps well after a massage. Of course, we cannot guarantee that this will always happen, but introducing massage to your daily routine can improve overall sleep patterns. As we know, a well-rested baby is a happy baby.
As well as increasing serotonin levels, baby massage increases oxytocin (commonly known as the ‘love hormone’) and dopamine through the skin-to-skin contact and gentle stroking. Dopamine plays a big role in helping us manage frustration and aggression. No one is saying a tiny child is aggressive, but the hormones causing this emotion can result in a baby crying frequently.
The soothing rhythm also simultaneously causes a reduction of the stress hormone (cortisol) levels. This results in a corresponding reduction in blood pressure and heart rate. No wonder your crying baby calms after a comforting baby massage.
And it’s not just your baby who benefits from the increased oxytocin and lowered cortisol. Yes, that’s right; baby massage can also help you relax. Unsurprisingly, a relaxed and happy parent means a more relaxed and happier baby. Babies respond to the environment around them and any tension emanating from parents will cause them to react with anxiety, stress and all that heartrending crying.
Parents with babies who cry a lot also often find that digestion or wind problems are causing discomfort and fussiness. Think of how painful trapped wind would be for a small child and it makes sense that they respond with tears! Baby massage is proven to help alleviate abdominal wind, constipation, colic and aid digestion, making your child more comfortable.
And the wonderful thing is, baby massage won’t just ease their crying; you will also see long-term benefits for both them and you. Find out more about the benefits of baby massage here.