When Covid-19 became a part of our reality in 2020, there were a number of lifestyle changes that parents around the world made. For one, we hunkered down into a lockdown, avoiding friends, family, strangers and neighbors in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus, in addition to using face masks and hand sanitizer, and cleaning surfaces, incessantly. That’s one side of it. The other is that simultaneously families, such as ours, became more diligent about boosting the immunity of our family members. We cleaned up our diet even more, stayed hydrated, paid attention to our stress, tried to get outside every day and increased massage. Yes, massage, especially baby and child massage.
In America, massage is seen as a luxury practice, something that is only available to those who are well resourced or as a special treat. In other countries, massage is part of the lifestyle, a preventative measure to avoid stress-related illness. As we know, 90% of diseases are caused by stress, so it makes sense that you want to lower your stress levels and increase positive feelings in your life in order to avoid illness.
I was born in India, where a midwife comes to the home after a woman gives birth and massages mom and baby for three months. Three months. Massage has been given to the children of my family for many generations, and the impact is both immediate and long term. I now teach infant massage to parents in America after realizing how few people knew about this critical tool.
Infant massage, while still new in America, has been around for thousands of years, practiced in Asia, Africa and Central and South America. It’s not a New Age concept. It’s an evidence-based approach to improving health outcomes such as sleep, gas/colic, congestion, digestion, postpartum depression, growth and … immunity.
Did you know massage improves immunity? In fact, one month of daily massage on a baby increases the number of white blood cells, helping baby fight off infections better.
It’s baffling. Parents across America have ready access to a tool that will improve their child’s health, help bonding in the family, improve their baby’s immunity and transform baby’s brain for little to no cost. If you were to put a value on the sheer savings of that in the first year, it’s about $1300. This doesn’t even take into account baby’s health for the rest of their life, fewer doctors’ visits, fewer prescription medications, even less therapy since massage also addresses attachment.
And, yet, there are reservations. Will it work? Is it really that effective? Can I learn how? Will I even have time?
What a year in a pandemic has taught us is that we are capable of making change, change that will have a significant impact on the life of our planet, our family and ourselves. We haven’t known how to navigate through it or manage our stress, and our babies and kids felt that anxiety and stress and energy. How could they not?
There are so many benefits of baby massage, but one of my favorites is that it helps alleviate stress and anxiety in the whole family. A father recently commented during massage class that he never saw his 12-week-old so happy as she was during her massage with her mom.
Baby massage is also now more important than ever because of its benefits to the giver. When you are massaging your baby, not only is baby releasing oxytocin but so are you! A study done by the Touch Institute at the University of Miami found that when grandparents gave their grandbabies a massage, they released more oxytocin than when they received a massage themselves.
The other thing to note is that when we are at high levels of stress and anxiety, our immune system is suppressed. When our immune system is suppressed, it makes us more vulnerable to illnesses, to viruses, so massage is preventative care. You can also easily incorporate self- or abhyanga massage, which is massaging yourself with oil, into your morning or evening routine.
Instituting loving touch as a part of your family tradition or family routine will help adults, as well as kids better manage stress and anxiety in life, setting them up for success. Hopefully, there is never a pandemic like this again in our lifetimes, but there will always be stressors. Our goal should be to equip children to manage that stress and alleviate it when possible so that the body awareness that they have achieved through massage helps them respond to the first signs of illness and build resilience.