A caregiver's touch for a newborn baby is incredibly powerful. Such a nurturing touch helps babies learn about their world, reduces stress, and most significantly, communicates love. Touch is one of the first senses we learn in the womb and it is through touch that we are able to both encourage feelings of love and communicate security. With the communication of touch, our children learn to nurture relationships and empower their overall well-being.
Baby massages, which have been well researched, have been proven to improve weight gain in preterm infants. They also encourage development, decrease irritability, and reduce sleep disturbances. A meta-analysis study was conducted in 2013 to determine whether the practice of massage could support and assist preterm infants. The results revealed improvement in weight gain, early discharge from the hospital, and neurobehavioral development.
When my daughter was born, I routinely massaged her every day for the first three months. This routine made me feel very content, especially with the flux of hormones I was experiencing. I experienced an instant connection with my newborn and found it to be an exceptionally strong form of communication. Through the calmness that had come over me, I was able to transfer positive and nurturing energy, both providing better care for my baby, as well as for myself.
Building a foundation for the right kind of touch through massage can communicate compassion, kindness, and mindfulness. The warmth through touch triggers a part of the brain called the Insula which helps process emotions. The connection and bonding that are triggered through touch help soothe any negative emotions, allowing for natural calming and healing benefits.
In essence, massage is a safe and effective practice to improve weight gain and decrease hospital stay of preterm infants. Caregivers who engage in massages not only gain satisfaction and happiness, but they also help babies improve their social, emotional, and intellectual development. To improve an infant’s overall health and well-being, I would recommend massaging your baby at least 3 times a week, 15 minutes a day for maximum benefits.
By Damandeep Johal, MD