This Little Piggy Went to Market...

Contributed by Gwen Teutsch

This Little Piggy Stayed Home.

Sound familiar? This game that has been passed from parent to child for generations.

In many ways, touch is our first language. Gentle and loving touch can help small babies grow stronger and feel less anxiety. Infants who are touched display more eye contact, smiles and vocalizations. In many hospitals and birth centers, newborns are placed on the mother's chest or abdomen to give them as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. The touch between you and your baby brings you emotionally close — a process known as bonding or attachment.

Massage is a wonderful way to help strengthen that bond. Bonding has been defined as a unique relationship between two people that is specific and endures through time. Touch is a very powerful element in human bonding. Communication, both verbal and non-verbal, and prolonged eye contact are also important elements of bonding. Infant massage encompasses and supports all these vital aspects of bonding.

Delayed bonding may occur due to situations such as premature birth, recovery from cesarean, medical complications, adoption, lack of physical and emotional support and postnatal depression. In these cases, infant massage can help families recreate the elements of bonding, which may help a parent and baby fall in love with each other.

Massage can be helpful in encouraging the connection between parent and child as children grow. It helps facilitate deeper understanding, integration and the connection with parents or caregivers. Some families have found that massaging their baby is particularly helpful in enhancing the bond of children with special needs.

The advantages can be grouped into four categories: Interaction, Stimulation, Relief and Relaxation.

In addition to helping you and your baby bond, regular massage may:

•    Soothe baby and help relieve nasal congestion and teething discomfort; reduce crying as well as help baby sleep more deeply and longer. Aid digestion and help relieve colic, gas, and constipation.
•    Touch combined with vocalization helps reduce pain levels up to 80%.
•    Help develop good muscle tone, coordination, and suppleness; enhance body awareness.
•    Boost the immune system.
•    Help calm and relax both parent and baby
•    Massage stimulates production of oxytocin. (Oxytocin is a hormone which can be produced by both male and female persons during massage. It is useful as a pain reliever and has a calming effect on the person.)
•    Boost parents’ confidence in handling baby.

Babies should not receive massage if sick, if he or she has just been immunized or on any area that has a rash — the area of the injection or rash may be sore. 

Through massage, you can gain increased awareness of how your baby communicates. You'll learn to read his likes, dislikes, desires and emotions. You'll learn the best time for cuddling, playing and relaxing. And your relationship will grow as you and your baby will discover what is best for you both.