Does Baby Massage Help Sleep?

Imagine yourself after a massage.

Actually, let's back up a bit...

Imagine yourself after a long day of sensory stimulus, you're ready to unwind.

But how can you just fall asleep if you're still processing all of it?

You lay your head down and your head works overtime, thinking about all the things that transpired.

It's too much.

My hope is that all adults unwind in healthy, fulfilling ways with family, self-care, and rejuvenating activities, including massage on a regular basis.

I know this isn't always the case, but I hope you can begin to see some of the similarities here with your little one.

More than adults, our babies are taking in so much new information, processing lights, sounds, feelings, temperature, touch - everything is new!

One of the greatest gifts I received as a parent - aside from nightly massage routines with my babies - was a sleep coach who told us to talk to our baby about what happened that day.

Even before I thought they understood or cared about any of it, I was helping them process all the things I remembered them experiencing that day by retelling the events as part of our pre-sleep routine.

It's actually STILL a part of our bedtime routine with my daughter who is 5 now. My (almost) 8 year old occasionally requests I talk about the day, I sometimes wonder if it sounds like a bedtime story. And even though it's about a very important person, it helps them process things. 

There are routines we create for ourselves and our little ones that encourage security, comforty, winding down, and closure.

Massage has more than physically calming effects, I'll get to those in a minute. But for now I want you to imagine...

A perfect world where you ended the day with healthy nourishment, a warm bath, relaxing music, candlelight, a calming voice retelling a few highlights from the day - reassuring you that you did a great job walking through that moment with your boss, and finally, a nice massage as you drift off to dreamland.

If you're like me, you're thinking "Sure, in an ideal world that'd be great! But who has time for all that?!" 

I'll tell you who....

Your baby.

And it doesn't need to take too much of your time.

I promise.

You can quite literally do a bedtime routine in 30 minutes, 60 if you want. But it doesn't need to be a long, drawn out event every night.

Babies don't have the bandwidth for that!

It's somewhere right around those timeframes that seems to be the sweet spot. Begin about 45-60 minutes before you'd like baby to be asleep.

It's important to note that if you incorporate a bedtime ritual, your baby will most likely be sleeping soundly for longer periods of time, compared to the "laying them down and praying for sleep" alternative.

You could be up for HOURS trying to get your baby to just FALL ASLEEP. It doesn't alway work. And the bedtime routine has ALWAYS worked in our home.

And believe it or not, I didn't always do it!

I had a really hard time with getting my son to sleep on a normal schedule, until a friend told me about sleep routines and their circadian rhythm.

I was doing regular massage for him, typically around bathtime. I just wasn't doing it at bedtime, or as part of an intentional SLEEP ROUTINE.

It changed everything.

You can create any Bedtime Routine you'd like, including:

  • Lowering lights
  • Turning off TV
  • Calming music
  • Essential oil diffuser
  • Warm bath
  • Read a book
  • Talk about the day
  • And of course, Massage

Baby massage before bed has been shown to help:

1. Get baby on track with their circadian rhythm - this is the natural sleep cycle that flows a lot better with your schedule!

2. Raise melatonin levels in your baby's body - a natural sleep hormone.

3. Bonding with parents and caregivers, bedtime massage forms secure attachment without all the distractions of the day.

4. Increase serotonin production, helping to improve mood, well-being and happiness.

5. Improvement with maturing digestion, and can stimulate weight gain.

6. Can help reduce colic, crying, and stress on the whole family.

Bedtime routines and massage before sleep are some of the best memories I have as a new (very tired) mom. But I also have the fondest memories of family visits where they were a part of it. 

Bedtime for babies can be a sacred time, and if you create the space AND your baby is ready/wanting it (important) then you will have the opportunity to create your own beautiful memories.

Final thought...

Baby massage helps us understand the cues that our new baby gives. We build confidence as parents when we can better communicate and respect our infants who don't yet have a voice.

It's not always easy, but the more we learn to listen and respond to what our baby actually needs, the more trust grows. This leads to  self-confidence in ourselves, and in our growing children.




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