What Research Reveals About Massage & Bathtime Rituals

Massage and bath time rituals help in bonding and enhance a child's sense of well-being. Here is more on the science behind the ritual.

Massage and bath time rituals help in bonding and enhance a child’s sense of well-being. Here is more on the science behind the ritual.

If a six month old baby could express an opinion about his or her favourite part of the day, the gurgling reply would be, “Bath Time!” Indeed, some of the most precious moments of bonding are spent in the bathroom!

A lot has been known already about the advantages that a traditional oil massage brings to babies; stronger bones, quicker developmental milestones, relief from colic and of course, sound sleep.

Yet, there is a lot more to bathtime and massage than what we already know. To delve deeper into the “Science of Senses” and baby bath time rituals, JOHNSON’S® commissioned a Global Bath Time Report, conducted online by Harris Poll surveying more than 3,500 parents of young children in India and six other countries around the world.

I had the opportunity to chat with a few experts at an event held to unveil this report.

The magic of massage

Dr. Jayakar Thomas, reputed paediatric dermatologist highlighted that an effectively administered massage leads to more smiles(happiness), better growth(health) and better disposition or attitude(holistic development) even in the later years, and this has been linked to skilled motor movements, enhanced language development, higher emotional quotient and better composure due to the ensuing undisturbed sleep pattern.

Regular skin-to-skin contact is therefore an essential part of early childhood.

While experts don’t really suggest any one ‘right way’ to massage, they do insist that massage is the right way to begin a baby’s bathing ritual.

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Director of Baby care R & D Asia-Pac, J&J Consumer and an eminent Bathologist, Scott Beaudry who has 18 years of research experience to his credit in this field suggests, “Do it anytime, anywhere before the bath, ideally by someone who is close enough to develop a bonding with the baby. Thereafter, expect your baby to know you by your touch, voice and even your fragrance, once you have established a regular touch ritual with it.”

Indians are blessed with a support system that includes grandparents, caretakers, specialist massage women, etc. Hence, setting up a pre-bathing massaging ritual is almost a no-brainer.

However, in other parts of the world, this ritual should be practised by parents as much as they can afford to. Prasanna, a totally hands-on dad from Mumbai saysthat the mum-dad duo indulged in this beautiful practice for almost a year when their newborn came along. The value that this family time brought in their home was immeasurable.

Additionally, according to Dr. Thomas, a baby’s skin is three times more receptive and absorbs the surface ingredients that much faster. Hence, it is very important to choose a good quality massage oil.

Touch & Smell memories

The physiological and emotional benefits of massaging also transcend into the bathing process. Letting a baby splash enthusiastically inside the tub helps in practiced hand and feet co-ordination. Laughing and enjoying oneself lead up to free emotional expression coupled with recognition skills about the surroundings. Soaking in the water helps keep the skin moistened and hydrated, needless to mention, clean and germ-free.

Dr. Thomas also added that it helps to use the right cleansing agent that dilutes the Ph level of water to suit the baby’s skin. “Babies skin come with a Ph level of 5, while that of water is 7. Thus, a mild and dermatologist-approved cleanser is needed to be mixed in water to make it most appropriate for the delicate skin of a baby”, he attests.

Coupled with the sense of touch, is also evolution of the olfactory sense in a baby (the sense of smell. This development begins right from the mother’s womb and enhances thereafter. S. R. Iyer, Sr. Perfumer, Givaudan, a global fragrance house added that the sense of smell contributes to strengthening the bond between a mother and her child, since this sense starts developing even before birth. Hence, the use of enjoyable scents can bring about a pleasurable connection that creates positive memories in later life.

Mild, familiar scents also improve the baby’s mood, bringing about a sense of calmness and alertness. He also mentioned that using a fragranced lotion or bath product at bath time can add to the rich experience of thoughts, memories and feelings that helps create powerful memories.

To sum it up, I learnt from experts in the field of paediatrics and baby care that smell and touch indeed have a lot do with holistic growth – it makes sense to reinterpret our ancient Indian wisdom in the context of modern bathrooms and lifestyles!

This post is supported by JOHNSON’S®. To create awareness and inspire parents on healthy and happy baby care rituals and talk about the benefits of bath time JOHNSON’S® Presents the “Science Of Senses” to inspire parents on healthy baby care practices and development.


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