Thank you to Angela Rau of Infant Massage USA for this guest post.
Parenting is part natural and part learned. All mammals have the natural presence of the bonding hormone (oxytocin) responsible for motivating caregiving of the young for survival. Research confirms that father’s increase their bonding hormone levels through physical contact with their baby. A mother has a bonding jumpstart on a father. After all she has had physical contact with their baby 24/7 during pregnancy. Valuable attachment moments continue through breastfeeding. Fathers, require touch time, as well.
Well-meaning family members, friends, and even community professional often focus on affirming the close and uninterrupted attachment between baby and mother; the father’s role is often ignored. In fact, Zaslow found that two-thirds of first time fathers have some form of feeling “blue” within the first three months of their baby’s birth. First time fathers shared feeling less control, feeling inadequate, and isolated from his family system. The best cure found for fathering “blues” is more nurturing physical contact with his baby.
Daily nurturing touch moments, like father-infant massage, form a father’s bond, familiarity with his baby, confidence in reading his baby’s cues and communications. Fathers who participated in infant massage instruction reported more awareness of their baby’s cues, needs, and lower parental stress. Babies reward father-baby massage with increase in alertness and an increase in playful reactions. Overall, a father’s touch deepens his fathering role.
Here are five ways for Dad’s to enjoy Infant Massage with baby:
- After bath, take a few extra minutes to rub some oil or lotion all over baby’s body.
- Diaper changes can be a great time to do a few tummy strokes.
- While holding your baby and watching TV, stroke your baby’s legs or arms.
- Criss-cross your baby’s arms or legs while they are sitting on your lap.
- Gently lay your hand on the top of your baby’s head, enjoy looking eye to eye.
image credit: freedigitalphotos.net
Melanie Mayo-Laakso is the Content Manager for Mothering.com. Mothering is the birthplace of natural family living and attachment parenting. We celebrate the experience of parenthood as worthy of one's best efforts and are at once fierce advocates for children and gentle supporters of parents.