Sleeping like a baby – or is your baby not sleeping?
The human body and brain need sleep. Whilst sleeping, the body grows and repairs. Babies have a lot of growing to do, that is why in general they sleep so much. Newborns sleep on and off throughout the day and night. Gradually the time spent sleeping will get less and they find their circadian rhythm or body clock.
Regular baby massage will help your baby sleep better. This doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will sleep longer, but the quality of their sleep improves. Massage influences both sleep hormones: serotonin and melatonin. It increases serotonin levels and regulates melatonin secretion rhythms.
Let’s have a closer look at these hormones.
Serotonin helps regulate sleep patterns. It is also a neurotransmitter and as such is believed to affect mood and influence happiness. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to issues such as anger, anxiety and depression. At the same time, serotonin seems to influence bowel function and movements (think of appetite, but also irritable bowel syndrome-IBS). By giving your baby a regular massage, its body will increase the release of serotonin. Can you see the positive effects? Better sleep means happy baby means happy parents, right?!
Melatonin is the hormone that actually helps induce sleep (and does a heap of other good things that I will not elaborate on right now). The production of melatonin is influenced by light and certain foods. In general, the body starts to produce melatonin when it gets dark and continues this production throughout the night. Skin to skin contact also affects the secretion of melatonin. Research finds that babies that are massaged regularly, have higher levels of melatonin.
Melatonin can be taken as a supplement. But honestly, if you have a choice of taking a pill or increasing natural release of melatonin by a nice massage, which would you prefer? I know which one I would choose!
NB How often do you need to massage your baby for it to be regarded as “regular massage”? Ideally every day, but if you can’t manage that, a few times a week is fine too!