If I were to ask you as a loving parent what are the fundamental factors that you provide for your baby which are vital to his survival, you would probably say: the need to give your baby enough to eat, the need to protect it from extremes of heat or cold. There may well be other factors that spring to mind. How many of you though would consider that touch would be so important that without it your baby would not survive. Post World War II studies into the infant disease, marasmus as it was called then or infant debility, found that mortality rates for babies in institutions dramatically improved when each baby was picked up, carried round and ‘mothered’ several times a day.
Thankfully the sight of a baby naturally brings out our instincts to cuddle and caress him. But surely if tough is a such a fundamental need for our babies then the more nurturing the tough, the more this will help our babies to develop further. Modern life however hinders the contact we have with our babies. We all value the convenience and practicality of prams and pushchairs, cots and cradles, bouncy chairs and high chairs but they do mean reduce the time we spend holding and comforting our babies, helping them to feel secure and loved.
The pressures of modern life also mean that many mums want and need to return to part or full-time work, leaving their babies in the very capable care of a child-care professional or supportive relative. But they also want and need to spend time with their babies, establishing and maintaining a good relationship with them, creating a means to communicate with them so that they develop a mutual understanding. Dads also need to develop that special bond with their baby, not only for the baby’s sake but for their own.
With time at a premium for all parents, baby massage offers one of the easiest, yet most effective methods of providing loving, toughing, nurturing contact. For thousands of years baby massage has been a valued custom in many cultures but it is only in recent years that we in the West are re-discovering it.
‘The bonds of trust and love, the lessons of compassion, warmth, openness and respect which are inherent in the massage routine will be carried by your child into adulthood.’ Vimala Schneider McClure – Founder of The International Association of Infant Massage.
The Benefits of Baby Massage
Baby massage brings many benefits not only for the baby but also for the massage giver :
- Contrary to popular opinion not every mother or father finds they bond instantly and deeply with their baby at first sight. Mass age can help to deepen and strengthen the bond between a parent and his or her baby. Massage can be particularly helpful if the bond has had difficulty in establishing for example in such cases as separation or illness.
- Massage helps babies feel loved and secure. There is also substantial evidence to suggest that the benefits of baby massage are much longer term – massaged babies make secure babies make secure adults. Studies show that in societies where it is normal for infants to be held, massaged, rocked, adults are less aggressive and violent, more co-operative and compassionate.
- Helps both parents and babies to relax.
- Helps parents to develop understanding of their baby’s non-verbal cues.
- Makes the parents more confident in handling their baby.
- Helps to develop, strengthen and regulate the circulatory, respiratory and digestive system. There has been extensive research that consistently shows that when babies both full term and premature, if massaged regularly, show improvements in weight gain, are more active and alert and show greater neurological development than their non-massaged counterparts.
- Relieves the symptoms of colic and wind.
Comments from mums who have experienced massaging their babies :
‘Gives us time for bonding and one-to-one contact.’
‘My baby enjoys massage and I feel good about devoting time and attention to her.’
‘I originally enquired about baby massage in relation to my baby’s colic. I feel it has helped this in particular.’
‘Baby massage has positively improved my relationship with my baby : breastfeeding isn’t the only way to keep a bond with her.’
Article by Tracy Russell, baby massage teacher.