By Alice Ambrose
You hold, rock, burp, and pat your baby all day---does she really need a massage too? Do babies have knots in their shoulders? Do growing pains really exist? You might be asking yourself these questions when you see an ad for a class on infant massage, and I’m here to help explain just why babies benefit from massage. Way back before your baby was born and barely after they were conceived at about 6 weeks, an embryo, their sense of touch began to spark. The fetal brain at just weeks along begins to light up when the body receives touch and comes into contact with its world. Being the first sense to develop in utero, touch is the most developed sense at birth.
Our skin is our largest organ. With thousands of nerve endings in just one foot, our brains process signals from our bodies every minute of our waking hours. For babies, it is how they learn about their physical environment. Touch is crucial for babies to thrive. Babies who are held, rocked, and massaged are more deeply connected to their parents, and to their world. Oxytocin, the bonding hormone, is released in the baby AND the parent during massage.
Research has provided us with evidence that premature babies who are massaged regularly gain weight faster than those who aren’t. Babies who are massaged daily sleep better, eat more, and have less gastrointestinal discomfort than babies who aren’t. Research has shown that mothers who have postpartum depression also benefit from regularly massaging their babies. Stress hormones dramatically decrease during the act of massage, and mothers feel more connected to their babies. Touch is a basic human need; we need it for brain development, emotional health and overall satisfaction.
Massage gives you a way to interact with your new baby. You’ll get to know your little one’s body better, be able to soothe more confidently and relax with your baby more often. We aren’t working out “knots,” but we are helping babies to release the tension from their bodies. We help them unfurl their fingers and toes, enjoy a back massage during tummy time and feel better in their growing bodies.
In class, you’ll become more confident soothing your baby, and understanding their cues. I will teach you a routine to ease stomach pain and discomfort, gentle movements to encourage babies to explore their bodies, and massage strokes that feel good during teething. By learning to communicate through touch, you’ll be better equipped to address their ever-changing needs throughout their babyhood, into childhood and beyond.
Reference: Touch Tiffany Field