“First and foremost thing that must occur, if you want intelligent, successful and healthy children, is that they must have a positive emotional experience.”
~ Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of Magical Child.
Demonstrating love to your child in tangible ways is key to development. Touch is the first developed sense and has the power to forge strong bonds between parent and child. Not only does loving touch impact the child and family unit, but the society as well. Consider the work of Margaret Mead. In her work in the 1930’s, she studied two tribes in New Guinea with two very different methods of child rearing. In the Arapesh tribe, the children were always held, breastfed on demand and slept with their mother. They were carried in soft carriers and everyone cuddled them. The adults in this culture were gentle, receptive and unaggressive. By contrast, the Mundugumor people kept their babies in rough, scratchy baskets and hung the baby and basket on a wall at night to sleep. If the baby cried, the parent would make scratching noises on the basket. Breastfeeding was described as “hostile” and babies were often slapped and pushed away. The children grew up looking peevish, fretful and anxious and the adults were aggressive and hostile.
Massaging infants is part of the culture in India and Russia, although I am told that in Russia, the infants are taken to a therapist for their massage. In the 1970’s, Vimala Shneider McClure brought infant massage to the United States after spending time in India and experiencing firsthand the power of its impact on that culture.
I have been fortunate to study with one of the best Infant Massage instructors in the world, Maria Mathias of the International Institute of Infant Massage. Maria, who is highly intuitive, has taken the art of infant massage to new levels, training instructors and teaching families the art of responsive, interactive and individualized touch with their children.
When you learn to massage your child, you learn not just “massage strokes”; you learn how to listen to your child’s cues and how to create the space of “just right” touch that soothes and heals. Years ago, I had the pleasure of working with a mother and her infant who had very little purposeful movement or vision. We thought that infant massage would give her a powerful tool for communication. Little did we know how powerful this would be. The young boy was probably about two years old when we finished our work together, but a year later, the mother came back to tell me that her son, who still was not speaking, had reached out to her one day, and began to slowly massage her! She was ecstatic. This is the power of intentional touch.
The Benefits of Infant Massage
The benefits of infant massage are well documented by research and by families who have incorporated this into their family life. We have found that infant massage:
- *Deepens family bonds
- *Soothes and relaxes baby and parent
- *Helps relieve gas pain and constipation
- *Promotes health and development
- *Improves communication
- *Enhances sleep
- *Helps relieve stress after trauma or surgery