The impact of postnatal depression on mothers is becoming more well-known, but did you know that postnatal depression also affects babies? Because of the way postnatal depression influences the mother’s use of eye-contact, facial expressions and touch, it can reduce how “tuned-in” she is with her baby. Baby Harmony share how this, in turn, can affect the baby’s development in areas such as speech and social skills.
How baby massage can help:
Studies have been carried out specifically investigating the effects of learning baby massage when a mother has postnatal depression. These studies have shown two positive effects.
Positive effects of baby massage
1. Learning baby massage may reduce the symptoms of postnatal depression for some mothers – even when compared with other interventions (such as attending a support group) (Onozawa, et al., 2001). It is important to note that some studies have shown very positive results, whereas others have shown only a weak effect. This indicates that more research is required to determine which depressed mothers in particular are helped, and under what circumstances.
2. When a mother with postnatal depression learns baby massage, she significantly reduces the impact of her depression on her baby. The improvement of mother-baby interaction has been consistently found throughout the research. Babies who are massaged by their mothers show social development similar to babies of non-depressed mothers.
Please keep in mind:
Baby massage is not a cure for postnatal depression.
These studies have only been conducted using the infant massage program of the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM). There is evidence that the quality of an infant massage program has a large impact on how parent-infant interaction is supported (Underdown & Barlow, 2011). Please ensure that your baby massage instructor is registered with the IAIM so that you receive the best tuition. You can find more information about infant massage and PND, as well as a directory of instructors at www.iaim.org.au