Touch Therapy for Your Baby

Published on: March 12, 2014

Getting the benefit of infant massage is a two-way street. Learn how both you and your baby can enjoy this age-old therapy. By Erica Shane
Bonding is a unique relationship between two people. It is specific and endures through time.” —M. Klaus
Infant massage has been around since the beginning of time. Vimala Schneider McClure brought this ancient art to the USA in the 1970s, after she observed its positive effect on infants in India. She practiced specific Indian massage strokes on her own baby and was impressed by their benefits. McClure became the founder of the International Association of Infant Massage and the author of “Infant Massage, a Handbook for Loving Parents”. She includes techniques on Swedish strokes, reflexology, and yoga, along with the Indian massage strokes she learned. This makes for a dynamic curriculum for teaching parents the art of infant massage.
Parents naturally learn early of the effects of touching their baby.
While the experience intends to resonate with the baby, it is simultaneously bringing out nurturing qualities in parents. This is why infant massage is recommended as a parent-baby interaction, rather than as therapy performed by a massage therapist”. Remember, your baby has had constant contact with you since gestation. She has never had to ask for nutrients or affection inside your belly; it was automatic and continuous. Now, in your arms, she is really interested in connection and communication, and through touch and contact, she is able to fulfill this desire. Babies, just like big people, need to adjust to big changes and can use a little help releasing their built-up stress. A little massage every day can go a long way.

Benefits for baby

Touch communication with your baby will normalize her physical and emotional life. It will help promote relaxation, improve sensory integration, and aid in deeper and longer sleep. It can also encourage mid-line orientation and assist in bonding and attachment as well as vocalization. It is also supposed to stimulate the circulatory and GI systems, relieve gas or colic and enhance neurological development. Touch therapy also stimulates the release of oxytocin, well known as the love hormone (both released in parent and child), and prolactin (promoting milk production in the mother). Oxytocin and prolactin hormones stimulated by infant massage promote bonding and attachment between you and your baby. A touch therapy session with your baby will help to relieve tension build-up from all the stimulation in her new environment. This world is so new to her. Her sleep/wake cycle will be regulated not only by her gradual adjustment to daylight and nighttime hours but through therapeutic touch she will sleep better, I promise. Infant massage will greatly alleviate gas and promote better elimination. It will release hormones for food absorption and will also release those handy endorphins (natural painkillers present in all our bodies) to ease emotional distress. Touch combined with vocalization helps reduce pain levels up to 80%. So sing with your baby; tell her a story, share with her exactly what you are doing, in just the way you would like to be spoken to. Being touched and caressed, being engaged, is food for the infant, food as necessary as minerals, vitamins and proteins.

Benefits for parents

Infant massage undoubtedly contributes to a secure infant-parent bond. While the experience is intended to resonate with the baby, it is simultaneously bringing out nurturing qualities in parents. This is why infant massage is recommended as a parent-baby interaction, rather than as therapy performed by a massage therapist. A professional may be able to show you the ropes, and from there, your baby is all yours. You will gain an increased awareness of your baby and her needs while engaged in touch therapy. It will trigger increased confidence in parenting skills because you soon realize that it is you that will know your child more deeply than anyone. While learning to understand and respond to your baby’s cues, you inevitably become more comfortable caring for your baby. It is an amazing tool for helping you and baby bond, and for mutual relaxation in general.
“Touching is the first communication a baby receives, the first language of its development is through the skin.”  –Frederick Leboyer

Touch as a daily practice

Touch is the most essential communication channel for babies because they sense, understand, and experience it more than any other stimulation. Babies need to be touched because it affects their health and mind and bodies’ development. It will also strengthen their bond with parents which can result in a happier family life and facilitated development as they grow older. The benefits of this interaction are both short and long term. Physiological changes, action readiness, balanced emotions, discrete emotions, and most essential of all, love along with safety and security, are communicated to babies when they are touched. All parents can take time to learn about touch and use this knowledge to improve their children’s quality of life. The key to successful infant massage is to remember that is it meant to be a pleasure for both parent and child. The focus of infant massage is not solely on the baby, but on the reciprocal interaction between infant and parent. Remember, infant massage is not done to an infant; it is done with an infant. A super pleasurable experience for all involved! She’ll say “Thank you” in end in a language only you can understand. What a gift!   For specific and recommended techniques on infant massage, visit

Recommended Reading

  • Dr. Alan Heath & Nicki Bainbridge, Baby Massage: The Calming Power of Touch
  • Vimala Schneider McClure, Infant Massage, a Handbook for Loving Parents
  • Elaine Fogel Schneider, Massaging Your Baby: The Joy of TouchTime  
  • Frederick Leboyer, Loving Hands: The Traditional Art of Baby Massage

About the Author

Erica is living her dream as she works in Thailand as a doula for expats. A graduate of the Matrona Holistic Midwifery program, Erica is passionate about holistic care-giving and bringing birth back to the family. She is dedicated to every family she serves, understanding the distinct needs and wishes each one brings to their journey. Find her here:
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