My Life in Words
I'll be sharing anything and everything related to nurturing touch and bonding. Sign up to receive updates as soon as a new post is made. You don't have to miss a single post now!
It was a beautiful morning on April 26, 2014. I met an old friend and an ex-collegemate, and an educator at a daycare center who happened to be my ex-classmate's mom! Felt wonderful chatting with them about infant massage and why it is important for babies to be massaged by their parents and why parents, especially in our urban society, should learn massage as a tool to continue the loving bond and positive communication with their babies while creating deep human connection and secure attachment.
We were talking a bit about why children nowadays are labelled as 'spoiled' or 'clingy'. Why do you think this happens?
Children who are not fully, securely attached to their parents tend to be more clingy. This is because they want attention, they need that love from their parents and they just can't help it, so they demand for attention all the time (i.e. Clingy). I share a story about this in Cuddles of Love.
Securely attached children tend to be more independent and happy to go out there and explore the world because their 'love tank' is full. We need more of this in our society. This will not only bring a peace of mind to parents, but also educators in early childhood education establishments, schools and generally, a much better, healthier society. Massage is a great way to create and flourish that loving bond as well as maintain a loving relationship between parents and their children. Start early. Don't wait till the last minute. The best time to start learning is when your baby is a newborn. Our program is open to parents with babies below the age of 1.
What about 'spoiled' children? How do children get 'spoiled'? Are they spoiled with too much love? Or are they spoiled by all the material things that parents give them such as toys/iPads/tv? A child cannot be spoiled with too much love. But this brings about the question, what is love? How do parents show their love to their children? Think about it. Is love giving your baby/child iPads or toys? Or is love that loving, relationship that you have with your baby, that loving communication and interaction that you have? That deep connection that you have with your baby. That feeling when your baby smiles at you, or when he/she says 'mama' or 'dada'? Ponder within for a moment, and you'll find the answer.
If you need more explanation, I've discussed this in depth in my book, Cuddles of Love.
Meanwhile, here are some photos of parents having a wonderful, loving, quality time with their babies.
The answer is simple: Survival and development.
Dr. Frederick Leboyer who is a French obstetrician and author says,
“Touching is the first communication a baby receives.”
“The first language of its development is through the skin.”
He also describes touch in a wonderful way:
"Being touched and caressed, being massaged, is food for the infant, food as necessary as minerals, vitamins and proteins.”
"It is through loving, caressing, tactile stimulation and communication that the infant learns that he/she is loved. We must speak to their skins. We must speak to their backs, which thirst and cry as much as their bellies".
When a baby comes into this world, she is very curious and starts to learn more about the world and the environment around her. She starts to learn and ask questions such as who am I? Am I safe here? Can I depend on the people around me? Am I lovable and significant? Do I need to protect myself? Is it better to respond with compassion or with violence?
A child’s brain tries to find out the answers to these questions before she is two. Thanks to organizations such as the Touch Research Institute and Centre on the Developing Child, Harvard University, we now have a better and deeper understanding about infants’ learning process and how touch plays a role in their development. It is found that baby’s early life experiences lay the foundation for a child’s social, cognitive and emotional development.
Touch plays a vital and important role in the survival and development of babies. A baby learns about its environment and the world through touch (E.g. Cuddling, holding, diapering, massaging, etc.) It feels great and fun to cuddle and hold a baby but that’s not the only thing that’s going on. Stroking and holding your baby helps the brain release important hormones that stimulate the development of vital organs. A love, bonding and well-being hormone such as oxytocin is also release in the baby as well as the parent who is touching, cuddling or massaging the baby.
Apart from physical growth, touch also plays an important role in cognitive/brain development. Babies need touch on a constant basis to help their brains grow. Touch helps the nerve cells form connections within the baby’s brain that enables it to function more efficiently. This has been further studied by Tiffany Field from the Touch Research Institute and Centre on the Developing Child, Harvard University. The baby’s brain is constantly forming new neural connections as he learns and observes his environment. During a massage or parent-infant interaction, a serve and return interaction happens between the parent and child where the mother smiles or coos and the baby smiles or coos back. This helps the brain form connections about cause and effect as well.
Moreover, touch is also important to the early social development and attachment behaviour of the child. There are studies that show that children who receive plenty of touch and tactile stimulation tend to grow into capable, trusting, well-adjusted and loving adults. On the other hand, those who are deprived of touch in infancy shows predispositions towards violent and aggressive behaviours. Certainly there are many other things that can influence human behaviour other than how we were touched as babies. However, it does make sense that during infancy, which is the most vulnerable time of our lives, we form expectations and patterns about how to world functions, how safe and valued we are, through our skin (touch). These connections and ideas are carried forward into adulthood.
So, if you were to give your child one thing, something that could help with the development of your child, what would it be? Would it be a learning toy or baby flash cards? For an infant, the most important experience that a person can give would be the communication a child shares with her parents and that communication starts even before the baby is born and enhanced through touch once the baby is out in this world. Baby massage is one tool that you can use to enhance this bond, communicate and learn about your baby.