The first year of motherhood is a period of growth and adaptation in women's lives with several challenges such as identifying the baby's needs and giving appropriate answers, so that mother and baby get to know each other and form a strong bond. Infant massage is one of the approaches that make an important contribution to the psychological and physiological wellbeing of both baby and mother, helping to form a harmonious relationship. This longitudinal study assessed the benefits of infant massage in the relationship between mother and baby, from birth to 12 months old. Comprising 194 dyads of mothers and their babies the subjects were divided into two groups of 97 dyads each. The Experimental group (EG) comprised mothers who undertook infant massage in a postnatal program with a physical therapist once a week. The Control group (CG) comprised mothers who did not attend any postnatal program and did not perform infant massage. Self-reported measures of attitudes concerning motherhood (CAQ-P), experience associated to motherhood (WBPB), parental satisfaction (PSS) and maternal separation anxiety (MSAS) were evaluated. Results showed that mothers in the experimental group were better adapted to motherhood, had greater confidence in their abilities and received more support from their mothers and husbands than mothers in the control group and were therefore more confident in their abilities. The EG group experienced a stronger relationship with their babies and described it as more positive than mothers in the control group. This longitudinal study suggests that mothers who learned how to perform infant massage had more positive attitudes towards the experience of motherhood in helping to increase the level of knowledge, regulation and proximity in the dyad. These findings can in turn help mothers to develop strategies that enable them to better cope with motherhood.
Keywords: Childbearing attitudes; Infant massage; Longitudinal; Maternal experience; Maternal support.
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