Is massage important for Babies and Children

Is massage important for Babies and Children

YES! Babies and Children thrive on touch! Massage is one of life’s simple pleasures, and research has shown that baby and children massage can help then grow better and behave better. (Even colicky babies!) The skin-to-skin connection helps parents and child better communicate too — without saying a word. Massage is also a great way for dad to get in on the baby-bonding act.

Pediatricians actually have a descriptive term for this skin-to-skin contact: therapeutic touch. But don’t let their terminology fool you. This is one of the simplest ways to calm your baby — and perhaps even you.

Why Massage Your New Baby?

To help them breathe more rhythmically  Infants often have irregular breathing patterns, but because the skin is the largest organ of the human body and it’s rich in nerve endings, massage can help.

To stimulate growth-promoting hormones  Pediatricians have long known that babies who are touched a lot thrive. Thriving doesn’t just mean growing bigger, it means growing to your fullest potential — physically, intellectually and emotionally. A study by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine found that premature babies receiving three 15-minute massages per day for five days showed a 53 percent greater daily weight gain than unmassaged babies.

To build their brain Studies show that newborns receiving extra touch experience enhanced neurological development. Since the brain grows fastest in the first year, that’s the time when it’s smart to give your child extra touch.

To boost their immunity  A study of human infants 10 weeks old showed that infants whose backs were massaged by their mothers experienced fewer colds and fewer occurrences of diarrhea. Conversely, touch deprivation negatively affects the immune system. Touch enhances secretion of digestive hormones and helps the baby’s digestive system work more efficiently. 

To relieve stress  Researchers believe that one cause of colic is sensory overload. A stressed baby will cry. Infant massage can significantly reduce this stress by reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. 

What about as your child grows?

Massage is a wonderful stress-buster for children. “Often times when we think about stress,” Hernandez-Reif says, “we think it’s just an adult condition, only adults have stress. But if you think about it, even young infants and children are prone to stress.” A young child starting school who is unfamiliar with the area or children in the class will experience stress. Family illness or financial problems, divorce and even vacations can produce emotional strain. Hernandez-Reif notes that one of the consistent findings in studies of the benefits of massage therapy is a reduction in stress and stress hormone levels: “There is a relationship between stress and the immune system. If stress hormones are chronically elevated, the [hormone] cortisol will destroy the healthy immune cells that fight viruses and tumors and keep the immune system healthy. If you can reverse that, you not only reduce stress but also reduce stress hormones, allowing the immune system to bounce back and do its job, which is to heal the body and keep it healthy.”

Touch is essential to a child’s development, sense of well-being and good health. Children reach out for touch as naturally as they do for food and water. A nightly massage can ensure that touch is a positive, nurturing part of their human experience. And, as Field says, “They love it.”

Love to hear what you think

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