Infant Massage Awareness week 19th to 25th of September
New babies are simply divine! It’s a natural instinct for parents to want to touch, cuddle and kiss those little feet, hands, tummies and cheeks. The importance of loving touch for babies has been researched and written about by professionals in the fields of brain development and attachment and bonding.
The sense of touch is the most developed of a baby’s senses at birth, so through touch we can communicate with our babies and show them our love and provide comfort in their first minutes, days and weeks in their new and strange world.
Loving touch positively impacts on a baby’s brain and helps them to learn about the world around them. If their first experiences are of love, security and affection they learn that the world is a loving place and that human interaction is a positive experience. This lays the foundations for them to grow up to be adults with the capacity to create positive relationships with all those around them. To put it simply, love grows love.
Sue Gerhardt, author of ‘Why Love Matters: How Human Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain’, writes extensively about how affection helps the development of a normal healthy brain. She also writes about how lack of affection and positive touch can lead to certain parts of the brain not developing, and how this impacts negatively on attachment with the parent, and on the ability to create a healthy sense of self and healthy relationships as an adult. She also discusses how a lack of affection can lead to mental health issues in adult life. Her book explains that a baby’s first experiences with their primary caregiver have an immense potential to impact how they cope in the world as an adult.
Positive touch has physical benefits — a baby learns about his or her body and develops self awareness. This leads to them achieving developmental goals such as rolling, crawling, sitting and walking. Through touch the nervous system is stimulated and helped to mature, by creating nerve pathways to the brain. Through touch oxytocin, a ‘feel good’ hormone, is released into the body of a baby (and mother) and this helps the baby to feel loved, nurtured and secure. All of the baby’s relaxation responses are triggered, helping to combat any stress hormones that may still be present in the baby’s system following the birth experience. The secretion of oxytocin also helps to strengthen the bond between parent and baby. Baby massage also provides relief from trapped wind, colic, nasal congestion and teething pain.
As a massage therapist I already knew the benefits of massage both physically, in reducing pain and discomfort, but also as a way of providing relaxation and a sense of well-being. So when I had my own daughter the first thing I wanted to give her was all of these benefits, and so I attended a baby massage course. I then massaged my daughter every night and I treasure that time we had together, creating a special bond that was just ours. As soon as my daughter was old enough I trained to become a Baby Massage Instructor so I could share all the benefits with other parents.
The list of benefits is endless, which is why I am so passionate about teaching parents to massage their babies. Baby massage provides a wonderful opportunity for parents to share a special time with their baby and further develop the bond between them.
Written by Shelley Cheng founder of A Moment of Calm Baby Massage & Massage Therapies, Greenwich.