The Amazing Calming Benefits of Massage for Children

Child receiving hand massage

Parents around the world have been massaging their little ones for centuries.  There are so many known therapeutic benefits of massage for both the child and the parent or caregiver, and it can be beneficial for everyone from newborns all the way through adulthood.

Let’s face it—during these crazy times, life can be full of stressors, especially for parents.  Massage has been shown to reduce stress hormones in the body and increase positive hormones such as oxytocin for not only the child that is receiving it but for the caregiver giving it as well.  Oxytocin is commonly known as the “love hormone” because it decreases our stress levels and connects us to one another.

Massage can be a great activity that helps bond a caregiver with a newborn baby or to strengthen the bond between the caregiver and an older child.  This type of physical activity also provides proprioceptive or “deep pressure” input to our body which helps to calm and regulate our body.  It can be a great way to help calm an anxious or upset infant or child.

Our little ones are growing and learning every day.  They may still need some help learning how to relax.  One important way we can help them is by making sure that we as caregivers are calm and relaxed ourselves.  I know this is easier said than done.  Massage can be a great strategy to help both the caregiver and child relax.

If your infant or child has any underlying health conditions, be sure to speak to your doctor first to determine if massage is right for your child.

 

Additional Benefits of Massage:

  • Support immune system and blood circulation
  • Improves body awareness and gross motor development 
  • Promotes digestion and decreases constipation and colic symptoms 
  • Promotes eye contact and social interaction
  • Strengthens the parent caregiver bond
  • Improves sensory processing skills 
  • Decrease tactile sensitivities 

Massage Tips: There are many different massage techniques and strokes that you can use when massaging your little one.  How you do the massage is not as important as creating a positive, relaxing experience for both you and the child.  Here are some tips to help:

  • Massage your little one in a calming relaxing environment. 
  • You can massage your child with or without clothes on however skin-to-skin contact provides additional benefits. 
  • You may use an oil that is safe for children such as almond oil or coconut oil.
  • If your child is a bit older and more active, you can massage them when they’re seated instead of lying down.  
  • If your infant has reflux, use a pillow to prop them up a bit so they are laying on an angle.
  • If your child is sensitive to touch, start with their feet and work your way up, finishing with their face.
  • Songs and nursery rhymes are fun to add while massaging your little one.
  • Enjoy this special one-on-one time with your child!If you’re interested in learning more about other sensory regulating activities your child can participate in, please check out our other Occupational Therapy blogs here!

    Written by Marra Robert, OTD, OTR/L

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