The Vital Importance of Touch

Posted by on Oct 11, 2011
in Babies & Toddlers, Blog, Dads & Partners

From our Baby Massage Teacher – Sheila Hobbs

Starved of touch babies will die.  Deprived of adequate, loving touch children will grow up with varying degrees of difficulty making social connections, forming loving bonds and/or experiencing intimacy of any kind.  This is the extreme outcome, the negative results of tragic dysfunction.  Given a normal degree of physical touch and cuddling infants grow strong and healthy, developing into fully functional adults.  What then is the benefit of infant massage – of giving more than adequate touch?

A variety of studies using both average and at risk children show the same types of outcome, improved bonding, less illness, decreased stress, better weight gain, less digestive issues and better sleep patterns.  There is also evidence for improved speed and quality of physical and emotional/mental development.  How does touch do this?

When we are massaged, and this applies to both children and adults, we experience decreases in our cortisol (stress hormone levels) and an changes in our white blood cell counts (indicating better immune function).  There is also an increase in oxytocin levels, as we see with breast feeding, which encourages bonding.  One of the nice things is that massage is not limited to moms but can be done by dads, grandparents, aunts and uncle – whoever might want to increase their connection to a child.

These three basic hormonal and cellular changes are the causal factors for all the rest of the changes.  Being less stressed and not getting colds and flus (or any other diseases) contribute to better digestion, leading to weight gain.  Better digestion mean less gas/colic and constipation.  Reduced stress leads to better sleep – both faster falling asleep and better quality of sleep.  All of the benefits discussed above contribute to a healthier, happier, more comfortable baby, which is a more connected baby – connected to itself and its body, and to its caregivers.  This all means, of course, healthier, happier, better connected parents as baby sleeps through the night, cries less and responds more easily.  Everyone wins.

Shoving aside all this great science and physiology, infant massage give you and your baby a structured way to experience positive touch and quiet, enjoyable time together.  Another reason to look into each others eyes and get to know the people behind them, allowing you and your child to move forward together.

When I am teaching infant massage I love being able to give babies and their loved ones a way to connect to each other and enjoy the fleeting peace that comes as both parent and child sink into the calm quiet of a good massage.  I am so lucky to be able to share my knowledge in return for sharing the wonder of watching the newest members of our world experience something beautiful.