“Babies talk when you touch them.” claimed a certified massage therapist. A mother’s touch and stroking hands to her baby’s body is an expression of communication for both parties. There are innumerable medical facts that support the importance of touch.
Interest in hands-on therapies has become very popular nowadays that even conventional physicians now embrace these treatments as beneficial not only in reducing stress, but also in speeding post-surgery recovery, managing addictions, and ending chronic pain from migraines, arthritis, and other serious afflictions.
We have come a long way in understanding the importance of touch with human development. To prove the theory that touching boosts the immune system, a host of researchers have undertaken a series of tests and verification procedures. Based on the results of the study, it was found that there was a decreased level of cortisol and an increased number killer-cell activity in research subjects that were given touch and massage therapy. Natural killer cells are immune-system cells that are important in killing virus-infected cells and cancer cells. For children with chronic diseases, touch can alleviate symptoms and let them live a more normal life. In fact, researchers say that fifteen minutes of massage a day can help a diabetic child’s glucose levels remain in the normal range and improve an asthmatic child’s pulmonary functions. In utero, babies are stimulated by pressure from their surroundings. It’s something all babies, especially “preemies” or prematurely born infants lack on the outside.
Another recent research has given proof that preemies’ systems need to experience controlled stimulation to help them grow and develop. Other studies show that all babies benefit from touch therapy. According to the University of Miami’s Touch Therapy Institute, babies who receive daily massage gain an average of 47 percent more weight and are discharged from hospitals up to one week earlier than babies who are not massaged.
Touch therapy offers a number of benefits for newborn children. Some of these benefits include;
Promoting wellness of the newborn;
Enhancing the bonding process between baby and parent;
Accelerates recovery from the normal rigors of birth trauma and/or difficult, prolonged labor;
Helps to soothe teething discomfort;
Optimizes growth and development, especially for babies who were critically ill at birth;
Minimizes the complications of prematurity and provides loving comfort for babies who are hospitalized and separated from their parents;
Benefits the baby even from the time of conception; and
Hastens recovery from medical and surgical procedures.
Further studies show a strong link between touch and emotional development. The study showed that infants of the Netsilik Inuit tribe of the Canadian Arctic are very calm and cry very little. This is thought to be because they are constantly carried on their mothers’ backs and can communicate with them through touch. In one study done at the Child Development Program at Montreal Children’s Hospital, researchers asked volunteer mothers to carry their babies for at least three hours a day. They then compared the babies’ crying patterns with those of a group who weren’t carried. The babies who were held more cried less. Research on massage in the Philippines has also revealed its positive effects on many functions in infants and children. These findings have led to widespread support of massage therapy in the local pediatric community.
Not only that touch or massage therapy are beneficial to an infant’s well being, but more importantly, babies that were massaged early in childhood establish a warm, positive relationship that continues as the child grows.