Baby Massage – The Calming Power of Touch
The therapeutic effects of massage on adults have been known for a long time, but only recently in the West have people realized that children also benefit from massage. In parts of Africa, Asia and South and Central America, women have massaged their babies for centuries.The practice is well recognized in the West and in Britain today; it is even offered in health clinics under the National Health Service.
Baby massage is an integral part of the help we offer our clients at our Healthy Start Clinics.These crying, sleep, feeding and behaviour clinics were set up to advise and support parents who have difficulties with early parenting challenges. Inexperienced parents attending were too nervous to touch their babies.This led to problems, as infants need plenty of positive touch to feel secure. Others had difficulty understanding their infants. If a baby cries and his parent does not know how to ‘make it better’ (by removing the cause of distress or providing affection), the baby tends to cry more.This frustrates the parent, and a pattern is set for a downward spiral. Some parents cannot cope with an incessantly crying baby, and need effective ways of coping. Others suffered from postnatal depression, a common condition that has a profoundly damaging effect on the bonding process between mother and
infant. Often, the relationship is damaged even after the condition is alleviated. Baby massage seemed to be a practical solution to these problems.Through massaging their babies, parents gain confidence in handling them.They learn to watch and interpret their baby’s reaction to touch, which sheds light on the infant’s natural rhythms, and on what he likes and dislikes, making it easier for the parents to understand him, and sometimes, to tolerate their own inability to soothe him. When parents enjoy watching and recognizing their child’s reactions, and respond to them, the baby reacts back. A positive relationship develops between them. Parents who consulted us became visibly more affectionate towards their babies, and their children seemed happier and more self-assured. Parents reported that their babies were calmer, cried less and slept better since they began to massage them. Parents of babies who cried a lot, usually colicky babies, claimed that even when massage did not calm their child, they felt better for trying to do something positive, which made it easier to cope. In the case of postnatally depressed mothers, there is emerging research evidence that baby massage has a beneficial role in developing the relationship between them and their babies.
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