Touch is the first sense developed by the embryo as it is rocked and massaged in the womb, surrounded by the amniotic fluid. As the baby is gradually pushed down the birth canal he or she is receiving a stimulating massage to prepare him or her to adapt to the new environment. After babies have made their difficult journey into the world they need the constant reassurance of a loving touch.
Massage has been practised for centuries in many cultures, and nowadays in parts of India, Pakistan, some African countries and the West Indies, massage is part of a baby’s daily life. Babies are massaged almost as soon as they are born, often initially by their grandmothers. The mother takes over the daily ritual when she feels fit. The practice of massage continues throughout life, and children and adults are frequently massaged. Massage creates a strong and loving link between mother, father and baby. The London obstetrician Yehudi Gordon states that ‘massage helps parents communicate with their baby, thereby strengthening the bonding process’.
Touch is particularly important for premature babies and those in special care if bonding is to be established. Babies who are born by Caesarean section and thus are not massaged through the birth canal also require a great deal of touch. Fast-birth babies who can be traumatized and shocked by the speed of the delivery also need massage. It assists in the physiological and emotional development of the child. Evidence suggests that babies who receive regular massage are subject to far fewer health problems. They also feed and sleep much better than those who receive no massage.
Benefits of massage
Both digestion and elimination is improved. Many mothers report that massage helps their babies to suckle better, leading to an improved feeding pattern. Babies suffer from far less colic, constipation and diarrhoea. In my practice I see an increasing number of babies and children who have constipation problems. I am shocked that they are prescribed medications which can become addictive at such a young age, when all that is necessary is a daily abdominal massage and sometimes a change of diet.
It is remarkable how babies can be calmed and even lulled to sleep after a short massage treatment. Irritability, frustration and a temper tantrums are reduced, resulting in much easier nights for the parents. Massage is as beneficial for the parents state of mind as it is for the baby – parents become much less agitated and more able to cope with all the pressures and worries of a new baby. Calmness and tranquillity can be restored.
Babies who are massaged are far more resistant to infections and experience far fewer health problems. I have two children, one of 11 years and one of 13 years, and they have never required any antibiotics or drugs of any description – not even ‘Calpol’!
Some babies always seem to be full of mucus. Massage will result in fewer coughs, colds, nasal problems and ear infections.
Baby massage will encourage the joints and muscles to become flexible and supple and enables the baby to co-ordinate its muscular movements.
The texture, tone and condition of the baby’s skin will improve with regular massage. The blood circulation is activated and any waste products are rapidly removed from the system. The baby’s skin will look healthy and glowing after treatment.