Before infants have language they have touch. Within the supportive fluid filled interior of the amniotic sac the growing fetus begins to experience her world through the sense of touch. During the eighth week of pregnancy touch begins as the first sense to develop. By the eleventh week the baby is using her mouth, hands and feet to explore herself and her surroundings. The sensation of the amniotic fluid and uterine wall provides stimuli for the development of the baby’s nervous system. By thirty-two weeks gestation, nearly every part of the baby’s body can feel heat, cold, pressure, and pain. At birth, the sense of touch is the most finely tuned of all the senses.
The experience of touch reaches a crescendo for the unborn baby as she is pushed and squeezed through the birth canal. Once delivered her Mom’s warm skin will soothe and soften her adjustment to the outside world. Skin to skin contact with Mom will help to regulate her heart and respiratory rate, keep her warm and start mom’s hormonal process for breastfeeding.
The newborn’s ability to thrive is dependent upon the comfort that her caregivers can offer her outside of the womb. The sense of touch established in early life plays a critical role in fostering the baby’s growth and development.
Baby massage is an ancient tradition that has been practiced in India and Asia for the past 3000 years. In many cultures babies are massaged daily with different regional oils and ash. It is increasingly being recognized for its emotional, physical and social benefits in the western world. The Touch Research Institute at the University School of Medicine, Florida has conducted evidence-based studies that have demonstrated the effectiveness of massage therapy in enhancing the healthy growth and development of infants.
Touch is a vital source of support for infants and as necessary as food and water.
An infant massage class offers:
- Guidelines for using 5 easy to learn massage strokes
- Demonstrations of infant massage by a skilled professional
- The opportunity to practice the massage strokes
- An opportunity to share and socialize with other new parents
Baby massage is a loving way to soothe a colicky baby, calm a stomach upset, relieve the pain of teething, constipation, reflux and so much more. An infant massage class offers a unique opportunity to meet and share with others, while learning the basic guidelines and key massage strokes that will help Mom and baby to continue to bond and thrive. How much to press, how fast, what direction, rhythm, the length of the massage, interpreting babies’ body language, promoting relaxation and parent empowerment are some of the skills and topics that infant massage classes tend to cover.
Infant massage increases caregiver bonding, whether a mother, father, foster parent, or another adult is providing the massage. These benefits seem to increase parent confidence and can help to mitigate postpartum depression.
Including infant massage as part of the bedtime routine increases melatonin for the child, regulating the sleep cycle. It can be especially helpful for children experiencing sleep delays, making nights less stressful for parents and children alike.
Massage is the perfect bedtime routine for winding down and transitioning to sleep. It can continue to be a family tradition throughout infancy and toddlerhood.
Babies who receive regular massage experience enhanced motor development and a reduction of cortisol. It is especially helpful for children who require additional support, including babies born premature, on the spectrum, babies born addicted, and HIV+ babies.
Touch is the first sense developed in utero. Touch connects the baby to herself, to her Mom and over a lifetime to many others. Massage is so simple and yet powerful in its ability to communicate love, foster growth and alleviate the symptoms of normal baby ailments. While the ancient tradition continues to be practiced as a daily part of childcare in many cultures, the western world has much to gain in embracing it. Touch is one of the greatest gifts we can give our to our children.
Frome Physical Therapy offers baby massage classes for pregnant moms, parents and caregivers. For more information please call 973-610-6598 or email [email protected]
Rebekah and David Frome have been working in the healing arts for over three decades. They have helped thousands of people recover from trauma and leave pain behind. They practice in Montclair and Asbury Park, NJ. For help with tapping into your potential call us at 973.509.8464 or book an appointment online at www.fromept.com.