Bonding with Baby: Massage Tips for New Dads
Your baby is finally here – that tiny crying wrinkled being. And you may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of caring for your newborn’s every need. It’s an amazing and stressful milestone. While mother and baby bond, new dads often wonder how to form a close, emotional attachment at this early stage. Research suggests that infant massage not only increases bonding between dads and newborn, it calms the baby and decreases paternal stress. Recent studies confirm that a significant fatherly bond contributes to a child’s overall wellbeing. This article will highlight the benefits of father and infant massage, and a few simple baby massage tips for new dads.
Skin is the largest organ in the body, and touch is the first sense to develop. Newborns primarily learn about their bodies and the physical world through touch, which fuels neural development and communicates emotions. The same massage benefits for adults apply to babies. It boosts immune systems, improves circulation, balances respiration, relieves pain and relaxes muscles. Massage can support baby’s sense of self, improve quality of sleep, relieve digestive pains and advance development. It is an act of love and comfort that stimulates all the systems of the body and releases oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, and endorphins, natural pain killers, in both parent and child.
Fathers desire to care for their new babies and create a bond but can feel unsure what to do. They may have stress because they feel unprepared to assume this new role as parent. New dads can thrive with increased opportunity to connect with their babies through touch. Some studies observed fathers who practiced massage with their newborns were more relaxed, positively expressive and accepting in interactions. Newborn massage may play an important part of building paternal confidence and competence, lowering levels of stress and solidifying a strong relationship. Dads who participated in baby massage felt more relaxed and empowered – they learned how to soothe their child, garnering insight and sensitivity to their little one’s needs, and attuning them to baby’s growth and changes. Dads felt more comfortable, learning to understand and respond to baby.
Pleasant early nurturing contact can begin with kangaroo care. Holding your newborn in direct skin-to-skin contact on your chest ensures physiological and psychological warmth and bonding. Your stable body temperature regulates your baby’s temperature, heart and breathing rate, which has been known to help infants gain weight, sleep deeply and be wakefully content. Baby will learn to recognize your smell, voice and touch. As confidence and closeness grows, you may feel ready to integrate massage. Experts recommend gradually introducing strokes when baby is in a quiet alert state. You will learn to follow your baby’s cues which will subtly dictate if they’d like a massage, when they’d like a massage and what they’d like massaged.
Infant Massage USA is a great resource for locating a practitioner or class in your area. It can be supportive to attend sessions that connect new parents and guide attendees through recognizing baby’s expressions and interpersonal capacities to better understand more nuanced skills like asking permission. There are also many books, courses and educational DVDs like It’s Baby Time! to illustrate specific massage routines and treatments for common baby ailments. While you don’t need a massage table, a bolster, warming pad or cover can increase your and baby’s comfort. Avoid loud music, bright lights or essential oils to prevent over stimulating baby. Choose a cold pressed unscented edible fruit or vegetable oil like Grape Seed Massage Oil or Sunflower Massage Oil. They are non-toxic and contain nutrients that nourish and protect the skin.
Many cultures consider infant massage an important tradition to support healthy development. Baby massage is a vital opportunity for father and child to connect through shared sensory experience and one-on-one interaction. Cultivate a critical skill set, boost your and baby’s health, and provide a strong foundation for a lifelong, loving bond with infant massage.
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