Caring For Your Baby’s Bodily Needs – Part Five

The high-maintenance stage of the first two years is often tedious, sometimes fun, but it’s also a chance to get to know your baby. In this article you will find practical ways to take good care of your baby — and enjoy it.

The Right Touch: The Art Of Infant Massage

It’s one of life’s simple pleasures (massage has long been enjoyed by adults), and research is showing that babies grow better and act better when they are on the receiving end of the right touch. Infant massage is a skin-to-skin connection that helps parents and baby better read each other’s body language — without saying a word.

Why Massage?

Besides the fact that it is just plain fun to touch your baby, infant massage helps babies grow and develop better. Other cultures highly value touch to help babies grow. In some Eastern societies a mother is expected to give her baby a daily massage. One of the most exciting areas of research is the connection between touch and growth. Touched babies thrive and here’s why.
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Touch stimulates growth-promoting substances.
Health care providers have long known that babies who are touched a lot grow better, and now there is search to back up this observation. There seems to be a biological connection between stroking, massaging, and grooming infants and their growth. Touch stimulates growth-promoting hormones and increases the enzymes that make the cells of the vital organs more responsive to the growth-promoting effects of these hormones. For example, premature infants in a “grower nursery,” where they can gain needed weight, showed 47 percent more weight gain when they received extra touch.

Animal researchers have recognized the connection between a mother animal’s licking her offspring and how well her babies grow. When new born pups were deprived their mothers’ frequent licking (equivalent to in massage), the level of growth hormone decreased, and the pups stopped growing. Even injecting growth hormone into the untouched pups would not cause them to grow. Only when the mother animal’s touching and licking were restarted did the pups resume their growth.

Researchers have found that human babies, too, when deprived of touch showed decreased growth hormone and developed a condition called psychosocial dwarfism; even more amazingly they also did not grow when given injections of growth hormone. Only when given human touch did these infants grow. This finding implies that touch causes something beneficial to occur at the cellular level that makes the cells respond to growth hormone. Yes, there is something, magical about a parent’s touch.

Touch promotes brain growth.
Not only is touch good for the body, it’s good for the mind. Studies show that newborns receiving extra touch display enhanced neurological development. Why this smart connection? Researchers believe that touch promotes the growth of myelin, the insulating material around nerves that makes nerve impulses travel faster.