Massage for Children and Infantsadmin
Touch therapy triggers many physiological changes that help infants and children grow and develop. ~ Tiffany Field, PhD.
Touch is one of the first senses to develop in utero through the growth of skin that contains millions of sensory fibers of this first organ of the body. It is the first thing we experience when we are born and thus it is a vital communication that signals safety and survival.
Studies have proven that child or infant massage is a positive treatment that can reduce stress, boost immunity as well as communicate love, caring and nurturing.
There have been many stories of survival of newborns because they were touched or held. The experience of healthy touch in childhood can be a positive influence for well-being in adulthood.
History of Massage for Children and Infants
Infant massage is an ancient practice that has been a natural part of Indian and other Eastern and African cultures. Native tribes such as Maoris used it as a method for relaxation and healing for their children and would often add essential oils or herbs to the treatment. Massage was seen as a way to bond with infants and children and to be a source of comfort to them.
In the 1970s, Dr. Frederick Leboyer, the French physician who was a strong supporter of natural childbirth, was inspired to introduce infant massage to the West after he had observed such practices in India.
Today, numerous scientific studies as well as organizations such as the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM) help emphasize the vital benefits of massage to this age group.
Benefits of Child Massage
Massage can provide many positive supports for health and well-being in children. It can:
- act as a stress buster that can help improve the immune system to fight off colds and flus and balance hormone activity
- improve blood sugar levels in diabetics
- assist in better breathing ability for asthmatics,
- decrease pain from arthritis (juvenile rheumatoid arthritis)
- improve skin conditions such as eczema
- promote better sleep
- improve mood – the child is happier, more relaxed, calm
- preschoolers have shown better behaviour and performance on manual and intellectual tests after a 15-minute massage.
Massage for Special Needs Children
Studies have proven that massage:
- helps promote greater focus, and calmer behaviour in such disorders as ADHD or other psychiatric problems (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2538473/
- decreases touch sensitivity and improves focus and the ability to connect in children suffering from autismm
- helps in coping with the discomforts and stress of cancer, as well as boosting immunity
Benefits of Infant Massage:
- stimulates the developing nervous system and brain, and memory of that positive touch may then be permanently registered in the body cells.
- improves circulation, respiration, digestion and elimination,
- the stroking of massage prepares the infant body for sitting, standing and walking by promoting strength, motor coordination and self-confidence.
- It helps relieve discomfort from gas and colic, congestion, and teething.
Massage for Special Needs Infants
- Studies at Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida have shown that premature infants, cocaine-exposed and HIV-positive newborns or babies with cerebral palsy have responded to massage with increased weight gain, decreased stress behavior and improved motor skills.
- Pre-term babies also slept better and were more alert and active with massage.
- The National Institute of Health conducted research into the validity of massage for pre-term infants and discovered that:
- Pre-term infants gained more weight
- Massage therapy infants showed greater improvement on even temperament and produced less stress hormones (norepinephrine, epinephrine, cortisol).
- The quality of sleep improved and resulted in less sleep-disordered breathing issues in low birth weight babies.
Sessions for child/infant massage do not last for more than 15-20 minutes due to a child’s reduced attention span and need to move.
It is necessary to use caution when performing infant massage to prevent any injury to the fragile structure of an infant. Massage for infants initially employs gentle, delicate gliding strokes on the body and the use of oils (almond or grape seed). In older children massage includes work on the feet, fingers and toes, and use of more extensive types of strokes and traditional techniques.
The empirical evidence of numerous studies suggests that the benefits of infant and child massage are so overwhelmingly positive. As a result, massage therapy is moving into the mainstream of acceptance and is being recognized as a legitimate health care treatment in all age groups and for an increasing number of conditions.