|Written by The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital|
Babies of all species need touch. It is an underestimated, yet powerful element in developing and reinforcing the bond between parent and child. Parents instinctively want to touch and stroke their babies after birth—it awakens the senses, promotes nerve myelination, and offers a sense of security.
Infant massage is an ancient art practiced by families in many cultures around the world. When babies are massaged regularly, parents often find that their infant sleeps and feeds better and fusses less. All of the important elements necessary in parent/child attachment come into play during massage routines, including eye and skin contact, vocalization, smell and communication. It’s a natural way to engage with your child, with many hidden and not-so-hidden benefits.
With many parents working and babies in child care, daily massage after the baby comes home can help parents reconnect. Taking a little time for this activity at the end of the day can relax both parent and child and bring the focus to family and home life.
Parents can learn to massage their babies on their own or through an Infant Massage Class. Certified Infant Massage instructors provide classes which teach specific techniques for all areas of the baby’s body. Professional instruction for certain massage techniques will ensure accuracy and safety for your baby.
Health benefits of massage have been shown to go above and beyond just relaxation.
The Touch Research Institute (TRI) at the University of Miami School of Medicine found that massaged preemies gained 21 to 47 percent more weight than those not massaged. Massage also contributed to five to six fewer days of hospitalization, and $10,000 less in hospital costs for preemies.
If you stimulate pressure receptors under the skin, you slow down the heart, blood pressure goes down, and you facilitate growth hormones and gastric mobility. Infant massage is not just something that calms you down and makes you feel good–it has a significant impact on health.
Infant Massage classes are available at The Parenting Center during the 2011 Spring semester beginning Friday, March 11 or May 6. The class runs for three sessions from 10 – 11:30 am.
How massage benefits your baby:
-Improves immune function, circulation, and digestion;
-May alleviate colic;
-Removes toxicity from the colon rather than letting it reabsorb into the body;
-Develops symmetry around the midline, establishing balance between left-right/top-bottom;
-Develops physical dexterity;
-Develops self-esteem because the message given with each massage is that “you are loved, you belong, and you are whole and complete in yourself;”
-Stimulates release of endorphins;
-Greatly reduces stress levels;
-Teaches compassion rather than aggression;
-Develops a sense of spatial awareness (where they are in time and space);
-Helps child know his/her own body and body parts, and how to recognize their own stress and feelings of being overwhelmed;
-Facilitates weight gain in preterm infants;
-Alleviates depressive symptoms;
-May resolve attachment problems;
-Fosters bonding; and
-Improves sleep patterns especially when done at night.
How infant massage benefits the parent:
-Helps parent connect with their child on a more intimate level;
-Provides a tool for solving the child’s developmental issues, such as colic, tension, and sleep disturbances;
-Gives them another way to say, “I love you. You are part of me and sacred to me;”
-Provides a framework for quality time with the child in one-half hour, especially helpful after time apart to reestablish a close bond; and
-Develops confidence in parenting skills.
How infant massage benefits culture:
-Reminds families of the importance of connection and gives tools for quality interactions;
-Gives families a way to bond even if the child is in child care;
-Provides a way for families of divorce to keep bonds intact even if the family has physically divided;
-Gives dads a way to become more a part of parenting early on so that they might bond more deeply with their baby;
-Gives siblings a way to connect that is positive;
-Gives families a way to be together and to slow down from a busy life;
-Develops compassionate children;
-Creates healthier children; and
-Creates children who know themselves and their worth
(Source: International Association of Infant Massage, 2007)