Why you should massage your children

A study conducted by Tiffany Fields, M.D., of the Touch Institute, found that premature infants who received regular massage gained 74 percent more body weight than infants who were not massaged, even when their caloric intake was the same.

by Tiffany Kuehn — 

What would life be like if at birth, after exiting the softness and safety of the mother’s womb into the external world, newborns received a full body massage? What if every little part of the tiny baby was touched and soothed by the external world into which they were thrust? Imagine the coping skills the child would learn and experience at birth about reacting to external stressors. Birth is one of the most stressful events in a human’s life — so stressful that the body shuts down conscious memory of it.

A study conducted by Tiffany Fields, M.D., of the Touch Institute, found that premature infants who received regular massage gained 74 percent more body weight than infants who were not massaged, even when their caloric intake was the same.

Massage for your infant, toddler and children offers many advantages and benefits.

Physical benefits

  • Massage improves the child’s quality of sleep and ability to stay asleep by calming the body and creating a relaxing response to the tissue and organs.
  • It tones the digestive system by increasing blood flow to digestive tissue, thereby increasing the delivery of oxygen, nutrients and water. The stroking movements from massage assist in expelling gas and fecal matter, in turn, decreasing fussiness and colic.
  • Massage improves the child’s immune functions, aiding in the elimination of possible parasites, viruses and bacteria from the body. Studies show a direct link between immune function and stress.
  • It relaxes muscle tension based on a concept from Physics 101: pressure releases pressure.
  • Massage strengthens the child’s nervous system and aids in neurological development.
  • It teaches body awareness and muscle function. Massage acts like a translator, assisting communication between the body tissue and brain impulse responses of the child.
  • It entrains a relaxation response on a cellular level, allowing the child’s body to practice the rest and digest responses of the nervous system.
  • Gentle exercises and long massage strokes encourage development of flexibility and coordination.
  • Children who are massaged have fewer sick visits to their doctor.

Mental/emotional benefits

  • Massage strengthens the bond between child and caregiver. (Ideally, bonding occurs in infancy; however, due to certain factors such as pre-maturity, medical issues, fostering, etc., bonding can be delayed even into adulthood.)
  • It establishes close, loving communication, which provides security and stability for the child, in turn, decreasing worry and anxiety.
  • Massaging begun in infancy can nurture and strengthen the whole family unit. Studies show that massage is as nurturing for the caregiver as it is for the child.
  • It allows the opportunity for caregivers to understand and communicate with their children at all stages of their development. This instills the caregiver with confidence.
  • Massage instills personal, body and energetic awareness, teaching youngsters the difference between positive and negative interactions through touch.

Massage can improve a person’s life experience exponentially, bringing blessings to every member of the family.

 

Tiffany Kuehn is a licensed massage therapist at the Center for True Harmony Wellness and Medicine and is an instructor at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts. 480-539-6646 or info@trueharmonywellness.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 4, August/September 2006.

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