Our neonatal expert explain why newborn babies experience touch differently to us, and Mary Moore looks at how massage can get your newborn to sleep better, improve their health, and help parents bond with their infant.
In an article titled ‘The Sense of Touch and How It Affects Development’ by Crystal Leonard (14 May, 2009) she explains how the sense of touch develops before all other senses in embryos, and is the main way in which infants learn about their environment and bond with people. In fact, a baby’s first experience with the surrounding environment occurs through touch, developing prenatally as early as 16 weeks in amniotic fluid, so gentle and calming touch is an important source of stimulation for newborn babies.
Massage helps newborns to foster the neurodevelopment of brain regions producing oxytocin, thus enhancing their future socio-emotional development, and is also linked to the ‘growth of physical abilities, language and cognitive skills’, according to an article on Urbanchildinstitute.org, titled ‘Enhancing Development Through the Sense of Touch’ (23 May, 2012). Massage is also calming and especially helpful, according to Gayle Friedman, who runs workshops from Baby Grow Clinic in Cape Town, as well as privately or to groups on request, and has been teaching baby massage classes for 21 years for “colic to help with digestion, and helps soothe a baby who cannot settle easily.”
Through touch, the baby learns to experience pleasure and, Friedman adds, “Non-verbal communication between the parent and child is enhanced.” This is vital for the development of attachment behaviour and “for early social development of the young child, in that both the infant and parent have the capacity to elicit and respond to behaviours in mutually pleasurable ways, according to an article on healthyfamily.org titled ‘Touch Communication, The Power of Infant Massage’ by certified infant massage instructor, Elaine Fogel Schneider, Ph.D., C.I.I.M