How Baby Massage Can Help Your Baby & Toddler Sleep
Baby sleep is one of the most pressing concerns for every new parent. It’s every parent’s dream for their baby to sleep soundly through the night, but this is rarely the case for many reasons. If you’re struggling to get your baby or toddler on a reasonable sleep schedule, you’re not alone.
Did you know that baby massage is one technique proven to help little ones sleep better, a technique that many parents are not aware of. Massage has been used for centuries to promote relaxation, help babies sleep better and reduce stress, and recent developments have highlighted the benefits of massage for babies and toddlers.
The Science of Sleep and Massage
The quality of your baby’s sleep can significantly impact their growth and development. In recent years, several studies have investigated the benefits of infant massage on sleep and the results have been promising.
In 2000, a study found that massaged infants experienced improved sleep immediately after the massage (Argarwal et al. 2000). This sleep study shows that baby massage can be a valuable tool for parents struggling to get their babies to sleep.
Two years later, researchers investigated baby massage's long-term effects on sleep. They uncovered that infants who were massaged before bedtime adjusted to a more favorable rest-activity cycle by the age of 8 weeks. By 12 weeks, they were producing more melatonin at night (Goldstein Ferber, Laudon, Kuint, Weller, & Zisapel, 2002).
Another study in 2006 looked closer at the effects of massage on low birthweight infants. The researchers concluded that infants who received massage exhibited better sleep patterns and greater alertness when awake (Kelmanson & Asulas, 2006). This is particularly important since low birth weight infants often struggle with various health issues, including sleep disturbances.
All this research also reinforced that infant massage may have lasting benefits on sleep quality. Not only is it a short-term solution for tired parents, but it can also be a way to create and maintain a healthy sleeping schedule in the toddler, childhood and teen years.
Later in 2010, researchers looked into the effects of infant massage on irritability and sleep problems. The result was that infant massage by mothers resulted in less irritability and fewer sleep problems in babies (Field, 2010). The potential benefits of massage range from sleep on a micro-level to overall infant well-being.
If you’ve tried everything and still can’t seem to get your baby to sleep through the night, continue reading to learn more about the benefits of baby massage and consider incorporating it into your bedtime routine.
How Does Baby Massage Promote Better Sleep?
New parents' most significant challenge is getting their babies to sleep. A lack of rest can lead to exhaustion and frustration for the entire family, but massage offers a simple and natural solution to this problem. Massages help babies sleep better by producing two essential hormones: oxytocin and melatonin.
Oxytocin is a hormone the pituitary gland produces that plays a vital role in social bonding and maternal behavior. It’s often called the “love hormone” because it’s associated with feelings of bonding and attachment.
Massages for babies are so effective because they increase levels of oxytocin in the body. When your baby experiences your physical touch during a massage, both the massage giver and the baby will experience an increase in oxytocin.
This also reduces stress levels in you and your baby, leading to a more relaxed and peaceful state of mind. After a massage, your baby is more likely to drift off quickly and sleep more soundly through the night.
Another way that massage can help babies sleep better is by increasing melatonin production in the body. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for regulating sleep and wake cycles. It’s produced in the brain in response to darkness and helps to promote sleepiness.
Babies have been found to produce more melatonin at night after receiving a massage than they do naturally. This increased production can help your baby fall asleep more easily and get quality rest without waking up throughout the night.
Baby Massage as a Sleep Cue
One of the ways baby massage leads to better sleep for baby and reducing wake ups and time to sleep is by acting as a sleep cue. When you massage your baby every night before bed as part of a baby bedtime routine, you are creating a sleep cue that signals to your baby that it is time for sleep. Overtime, your baby will naturally fall asleep faster since they are familiar with their bedtime sleep routine.
The Effect of Massage on Your Baby's Circadian Rhythms
Circadian rhythms are the body's internal clock that regulates sleep and wake cycles. External cues, such as light and darkness, influence these rhythms.
Exposure to light in the morning regulates our circadian rhythms and promotes wakefulness. On the other hand, exposure to darkness in the evening encourages sleepiness and prepares us for rest.
Establishing and maintaining healthy sleep habits
Massaging your baby before bedtime provides an external cue that signals it's time to sleep. This can help to regulate your baby's circadian rhythms and create a more regular sleep pattern, which is vital for establishing a consistent sleeping schedule.
In addition to regulating circadian rhythms, baby massage can also have a calming effect on your baby's nervous system by reducing stress and anxiety levels. Massage can help your baby feel more comfortable and secure by promoting relaxation and reducing tension, leading to a more restful and peaceful night's sleep.
Establishing healthy sleep habits early on comes with significant long-term benefits for your child’s mental and physical development. Incorporating baby massage into your baby's bedtime routine can promote relaxation, regulate circadian rhythms, and establish a consistent sleep pattern. With regular bedtime massages, you can improve your baby's sleep quality and overall well-being.
Final Thoughts: Incorporating Baby Massage
Massage can be a helpful tool for parents struggling to get their babies to sleep. The increase in oxytocin and melatonin levels and the regulation of circadian rhythms can all contribute to improved sleep patterns in infants and toddlers. Additionally, the bonding and attachment that result from massage can help to strengthen the relationship between parents and their babies leading to less separation anxiety at bedtime.
Finally, baby massage can serve as an important sleep cue that signals that it’s time to sleep, helping even very young babies understand that nighttime is coming and it’s time to sleep. Whether you’re doing the massage with your hands or incorporating the baby soothing vibrations of the Kahlmi baby massager, creating a regular bedtime routine will pay off overtime.
So next time your little one has difficulty sleeping, make sure to give baby massage a try. It’s important to note, however, that massage should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment for sleep-related issues. Speak with your pediatrician for additional advice and guidance, or if you’re concerned about your baby’s sleep patterns.