The Case for Baby Massage

By Nilma Black, 23 May 2019
Squish! Few things in my world rank better than a soft baby's bottom. Then the cheeks, the thighs, and so on! A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of presenting on the topic of infant massage to a group of new and expectant parents. I thought I'd share some of the highlights with you here and would love to hear from you if this is something you'd be interested in learning more of with me?! First of all I just love this quote by Vimala McClure, founder of the International Association of Infant Massage, “Who needs double blind studies to prove that grass grows if you water it?” And yet the evidence for touching our babies abounds. One study with infant monkeys demonstrated how given the choice between a wire mother figure with food and a soft, ‘terry cloth’ like figure without food, more chose the mother figure! In rat studies, the ones stroked in infancy showed better neurological development, faster weight gain, and higher immunity. In one human study, of premature babies who were massaged 3 times a day for 15 minutes each, these babies had 47% greater weight gain, increased alertness, and were released from the hospital on average 6 days earlier than others in the same condition. Human infants with failure to thrive have demonstrated deterioration without intervention that involves emotional nurturing, contact comfort and care. Infant massage is an obvious derivative of this kind of care. Consider that massage acts in humans like licking does in animals. For instance, a mother cat spends 50% of her time licking her babies, stimulating physiological systems, such as digestion, preventing issues like colic. I mean, have you ever seen a colicky cat? Modern research suggests that touch is as important to infants and children as eating and sleeping! Infants are constantly inundated with new sensory stimulation that is a kind of stress for their little nervous systems. Daily massages raises an infant’s stimulation threshold that can act like an early stress management program that will last them for years to come. The relaxation starts with you, the caregiver, and regular practice can prove to be mutually calming. To learn with me, check out my Comforting Touch for Babies page for upcoming classes.