Much is written about the benefits of baby massage for mothers and babies. Calmer babies, more sleep and improved bonding. Baby massage has even been proven to impact maternal mental health with mothers who massage their babies finding that symptoms of postnatal depression were alleviated.
This is all fantastic, however you would be forgiven for asking, what about dads? Do the benefits of baby massage also extend to fathers? Or is this purely about improving the maternal-infant bond?
We know that fathers frequently worry that they will lose out, that their bond with their baby will be impacted as women appear to have more opportunities to care for, feed and nurture their babies. It is vital that fathers know that their bond with their baby can grow and be nurtured. We often tell parents that bonding is not an event, but a process which can be influenced in a number of ways; from playing and singing, to basic babycare such as bathing, nappy changing and soothing. Essentially any activity that encourages eye contact, being respectful of baby’s cues and which provides an opportunity for positive interaction will enhance the bonding process.
With all this in mind, we were over the moon to read research which corroborated our theory that fathers also benefit hugely from using nurturing touch with their baby. The research study showed that fathers who attended baby massage classes had a significant reduction in stress levels than those who didn’t. The research also showed that participating fathers felt more competent, found it easier to accept their role as father, and were of greater support to their partners. In addition, feelings of isolation and depression were reduced.
The authors of the study noted that baby massage classes gave dads an opportunity to share their fathering experiences. And in our fast-paced world, where time is short, commutes are long and work pressures high, it strikes us that creating this special time, learning skills that will improve the bonding process, reduce stress levels and allow fathers to talk about parenting, is more important than ever.