Certified Infant Massage Instructor, AnnMarie Murphy, has been certified by the World Institute for Nurturing Communication (WINC) in training parents in massage for their children. These strokes assist in bonding and attachment, relief, relaxation and stimulation for their children. Despite its name, the infant massage certification trains practitioners to work with parents of infants, toddlers, and the growing child. The Triad Family Model that WINC embodies, facilitates epigenetics. Epigenetics is the continuum of DNA development, after birth through conscious parenting so children may thrive and not just survive; this is facilitated through nurturing touch, compassionate communication, and creating a safe, positive, creative environment.
Skin sensitivity is the earliest developed function and is most crucial for all sensory systems for overall health development. This includes many body systems including: digestive, circulatory, immune, nervous, lymphatic, limbic and hormonal. Nurturing touch can increase brain and muscular development, cardiac and respiratory output, improve weight gain, and improve sensory awareness. Although infant massage has many benefits for all babies, it provides particular benefit for infants/toddlers with sensory challenges.
What are the Benefits?
For over responsive children, infant massage provides:
- Reframing of touch as ‘safe’
- Bonding between parent and child
- Deep touch which is typically very calming
- Slow, rhythmic, predictable strokes
Infant massage may:
- Promote positive interactions between parent and child by helping each other learn and understand cues, both verbal and non-verbal. Current and on-going research supports that infant massage is an important tool, and perhaps one of the most critical, for bonding and attachment. Massage uses many of the elements of bonding and the release of ‘relaxation hormones’ in mothers fostering a nurturing response towards their baby.
- Balance autonomic nervous systems; massage releases hormones that help our body create balance and to relieve built up tension in an infant’s body from all the stimulation and sensory integration that takes place in a baby’s daily environment.
- Provide reciprocal benefits for new mothers; when giving the massage oxytocin, and prolactin, are released creating healthy, nurturing, maternal feelings and a sense of well-being and contentment.
- Improve body weight in NICU babies. Researcher Tiffany fields found infant massage led to a 47% higher weight gain in NICU babies who received infant massage than those who didn’t.
Infant massage has been shown to:
- Promote social, emotional and cognitive development
- Strengthen and regulate primary systems
- Provide flexibility and stretching
- Improve balance and coordination
- Improve sleeping patterns
- Reduce release of stress hormones
- Reduce gas and colic
- Increase length of time the baby is receptive to interaction
- Promote body awareness, joint flexibility, and circulation
- Stimulate muscles used for speech, feeding and sucking
- Open sinuses and relax check muscles
- Relax scalp and neck muscles
- Improve bone density and mineralization
- Strengthen joints and prevent muscle tightness
Importance of bonding and attachment:
- Shared sensitivity, giving, trust, feeling of love and connectedness, and interactions between parent and baby
- Parents may feel more confident, sensitive, empowered, understand baby’s preference and needs
- Babies learn to trust, have healthy independence, intimacy, give and receive love, and feel safe and secure
Advances in biomedicine now acknowledge that our earliest experiences have a lifelong impact, for they influence the selection, and even rewriting of our genetic code. Scientific research further reveals that the somatosensory stimuli provided by nurturing touch, movement, and affection significantly improves the development of a child’s nervous and immune system. The somatosensory experience created by infant massage is an especially effective way for parents to enhance the physiologic and mental health parameters of their children, factors that contribute to the creation of healthy and peaceful adults.Cellular Biologist Bruce Lipton, PhD