Yes, you read it correctly. Baby massage could change the world. And currently, it feels like a world that needs changing. This week is Infant Massage Awareness Week here in the UK from 16th - 22nd September and I have been thinking about my usual posts about all of the wonderful benefits of massage, how it may help to improve symptoms of colic, promote a deeper sleep, reduce crying, enhance the connection between you and your baby and then I paused. I looked deeper.
Infant massage is so much more than just the strokes. The benefits go beyond the perspective of babies to include benefits for others, including society as a whole. It is no secret that our world is plagued by violence, crime and hate but could we improve it, even within just a couple of generations, with love?
It starts at the beginning...
Cross cultural studies show that babies who are held, massaged, carried and rocked grow into adults that are less aggressive and violent, and are more compassionate and cooperative. Sadly on the flip side, the research suggests that neglected babies are more likely to experience negative physical, psychological and behavioural consequences. The benefits of interaction during massage play a large part. By communicating through nurturing touch, and with both verbal and non-verbal communication, babies learn about respect, tolerance and empathy.
The promotion of bonding and building secure attachments lays foundations for future trust, faith and love. Secure attachments take place when parents are able to recognise the cues of their baby's behaviour and support the child accordingly. Baby Massage is a cue based programme, done with, not to a baby, and always with respect and permission.
As humans we are becoming more stressed and overstimulated. Our health is suffering and the benefits of relaxation for adults are widely promoted in our busy world. The relaxation benefits of Baby Massage are also well researched; massage can reduce stress levels and stress hormones such as cortisol, help babies to regulate their different sleep and awake states and improve their ability to calm themselves both now and in later life. It is a fantastic coping mechanism releasing wonderful relaxation hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin and feel good hormones such as dopamine as well as endorphins.
An increase of positive touch in our society couldn't come at a better time. Ashley Montagu in his book 'Touching' states that "The sooner we understand that love and gentleness are the only kinds of called-for behaviour towards children, the better. The child, especially, learns to become the kind of human being that he or she has experienced. This should be fully understood by all caregivers."
Just what if every single baby, and therefore every single person, got to experience these feelings of love, respect and worth? Feelings that should be experienced by every single human being. It might just change the world.
The IAIM Mission Statement
The purpose of the International Association of Infant Massage is to promote nurturing touch and communication through training, education and research; so parents, caregivers and children are loved, valued and respected throughout the world community
References: Klaus, M.: Maternal-infant bonding, Saint Louis, 1976, the C.V. Mosby Koniak Griffin D, Ludington Hoe SM. Developmental and temperament outcomes of sensory stimulation in healthy infants. Nursing Research 1988;37:70-6 Marshall Klaus, John Kennell, and Phyllis Klaus (1995). Bonding: Building the Foundation of Secure Attachment and Independence. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. McClure, Vimala (2000), Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents. Montagu, Ashley (1978), Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin. New York: Harper and Row. Prescott, J. 1975, Apr. "Pleasure/Violence Reciprocity Theory: The Distribution of 49 Cultures, Relating Infant Affection to Adult Physical Violence." The Futurist.